Radiotherapy, also called radiation therapy, kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.
At GenesisCare our doctors and expert teams are leading specialists in using advanced radiotherapy for different cancers and our treatment centres are equipped with the latest radiotherapy technologies.
Recent breakthroughs have led to radiotherapy treatments that can significantly improve cancer outcomes by controlling tumours and reducing the need for surgery. At the same time, these techniques can limit side effects and shorten treatment times from weeks to just a few days for some tumour types.
What is external beam radiotherapy?
External beam radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation beams to destroy cancer cells. Before your treatment begins, we’ll take some imaging scans to establish the precise shape, size and location of the tumour. If your treatment is after your tumour removal surgery, then we’ll take scans to examine the area where the tumour was removed.
What is DIBH?
Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) is a simple method that combines a breathing technique and radiotherapy to treat cancers in the breast and chest wall. Radiotherapy is precisely targeted so there’s less chance of damage to the heart, lungs and liver.
What is image-guided radiotherapy?
IGRT uses X-rays and scans before, and during, your treatment. It’s used to verify your position and anatomy before the treatment machine is turned on.
- The scans show the exact shape, size and location of the tumour. We can then make tiny adjustments to precisely target the treatment area
- IGRT can target cancers that move during, or between, treatment sessions. For example, lung cancers that move as you breathe. Or prostate cancer that can move depending on whether your bowel is full or empty
What is intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT)?
IMRT is a ‘conformal’ radiotherapy. This means radiation beams are shaped to surround the treatment area, so it avoids damaging surrounding healthy tissue.
What is volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT)?
Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) is a type of intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) – where the radiation beams are shaped to fit the target area.
VMAT is a new type of IMRT that delivers a continuous beam of radiotherapy in an arc as the machine (called a linac) moves around you. It automatically changes the beam shape and radiation dose as it moves.
This makes it very accurate and maximises radiation to the tumour while the surrounding healthy tissue receives a much lower dose. This reduces the risk of side effects and means that VMAT can be used when the tumour is close to critical organs, because it helps protect them from being damaged by radiation.
VMAT is used for many cancers, including breast and prostate.
At GenesisCare, we also use VMAT to treat skin cancerisation. Skin cancerisation is dry scaly patches of skin, caused by long-term sun damage. Although it is not cancerous there is a chance it may eventually turn into skin cancer if the area isn’t treated.
What is stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR)?
SABR is a non-invasive, advanced radiotherapy technique that targets tumours using highly focused beams of radiation and shorter treatment schedules to destroy cancer cells with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissues.
SABR can be used to treat localised tumours (where the cancer is only found in the tissues where it started) in the pancreas, liver, prostate, kidney, and lung. It can also be used to delay the growth of secondary cancers (where the cancer has spread to other tissues in the body) in the liver, bone, lung, and brain.
SABR for prostate cancer at GenesisCare
We deliver SABR for men with low- to intermediate-risk localised prostate cancer in just five sessions (5# SABR) instead of the conventional 20 or 39 sessions over many weeks. Find out more about this leading-edge prostate cancer treatment.
What is tomotherapy?
Tomotherapy is a type of IMRT. It combines the technologies of a CT scanner (providing 3D images) and an IMRT machine to accurately target a tumour.
- Creating a 3D image of the tumour means we can target the beams precisely. We adjust the treatment to the size, shape and location of the treatment area
- The tumour is given a very high dose of radiation. The healthy surrounding tissue gets a much lower dose, reducing the risk of side-effects
What is the MRIdian MR linac?
An MR linac is an advanced radiotherapy technology that combines high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning techniques with extremely powerful radiotherapy beams to treat tumours more accurately and quicker than conventional radiotherapy. This type of radiotherapy is called magnetic resonance image guided radiotherapy (MRIgRT).
At GenesisCare, we’re proud to be the first independent healthcare provider in the UK to introduce the MRIdian – an advanced MR linac. It’s the only MR linac to have automated beam control – if your tumour moves slightly during treatment, the radiotherapy beam will automatically pause until it comes back into position. More than 20,000* people worldwide have already benefitted from having been treated with the MRIdian.
MRI-guided radiotherapy is a promising treatment option for tumours near other major organs where limiting damage to healthy tissue is paramount or in organs that move a lot, for example, due to breathing. This makes it suitable for:
*20,000 patients treated worldwide with MRIdian as of April 2022.
MRIdian MR linac at GenesisCare
The MRIdian is available at our centres in Oxford and Cromwell Hospital in London. Find out more about the MRIdian MR linac, including how it works and who it’s for.
What is neuro-oncology?
Neuro-oncology is the study and treatment of tumours that are found in the brain and spinal cord.
We are proud to offer a world-class neuro-oncology service, with unrivalled expertise and state-of-the-art technology. We are a leading private provider of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), an advanced ‘brain-sparing’ radiotherapy approach for brain tumours. This technique is widely recognised for its ability to preserve quality of life in people with cancers that have spread to the brain, known as brain metastases.
Our neuro-oncology service is comprised of multidisciplinary consultant-led teams which include expert specialist neuro-oncologists, neuroscientists, therapeutic radiographers, neuroradiologists, medical physicists and clinical nurse specialists. By combining this expertise with world-class technology, we offer exceptional care tailored to you to maximise your chance of the best possible outcome.
What are prostate spacers?
Spacers reduce the radiation exposure to the rectum during prostate cancer radiotherapy meaning fewer side effects and better quality of life. At GenesisCare we offer spacers at no extra cost to patients who haven’t had their prostate removed and who are undergoing VMAT radiotherapy for prostate cancer.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an established stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) technique for tumours, vascular malformations and other abnormalities of the brain. The Gamma Knife is an advanced radiotherapy machine which is able to deliver large doses of precisely targeted radiation, minimising radiation to the surrounding healthy brain tissue and reducing the risk of damage to it.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery for metastatic and benign brain conditions
Learn more about how our specialist non-invasive Gamma Knife radiosurgery can target areas with sub-millimetre accuracy and who can benefit from this advanced technology.
Stereotactic radiosurgery, or SRS, is an advanced radiotherapy technique that precisely delivers multiple beams of radiation to a brain or spinal tumour, sometimes in a single treatment session. Despite its name, SRS is not surgery – it doesn’t involve any incisions and the procedure is painless.
SRS is often referred to as a ‘brain-sparing’ radiotherapy approach as it’s widely recognised for its ability to preserve the quality of life in people with cancers that have spread to the brain (brain metastases).
What is radiotherapy?
Radiotherapy, also called radiation therapy, kills cancer cells. It’s used to cure cancer (called curative or radical radiotherapy) or it can be used palliatively to limit cancer growth and relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread and can’t be cured. Radiotherapy can also be used to make other treatments more effective, such as before surgery or with chemotherapy, or reduce the risk of cancer coming back after surgery.
- Skin changes and inflamation
- Swelling and build up of fluids
- Hair loss
- Stress, anxiety and other coping issues are also common
There are many ways to have radiotherapy but they all work in a similar way. Carefully controlled high-energy X-rays are used to destroy or damage cancer cells. This stops them growing or spreading. Radiotherapy is usually delivered in daily intervals called ‘fractions’. This allows time between treatments for the healthy cells to repair and the cancer cells to die off.
Radiotherapy works by using precisely controlled beams of energy to destroy cancer cells, while avoiding nearby healthy tissue. The energy is in the form of radiation – usually X-rays generated by a machine called a linear accelerator (linac).
Radiotherapy damages the DNA in cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and growing and causing them to die off. This can stop tumours growing, reduce their size or relieve pain caused by tumours.
Radiotherapy uses high energy radiation to kill cancer cells. At GenesisCare, our state-of-the-art linear technologies use X-rays and gamma rays to precisely target and destroy tumours within the body and electrons for tumours one the skin.
Radiotherapy does not kill cancer cells right away – it can take a few days or weeks. Then they will continue to die for weeks or months after your treatment course has ended. You will have a follow-up with your doctor after your treatment to assess how well it has worked.
While newer radiotherapy techniques mean fewer side effects than earlier forms of radiotherapy, there are still side effects that you may experience, as with any treatment.
Common side effects include:
- Skin changes and inflammation
- Swelling and build up of fluids
- Hair loss
- Stress, anxiety and other coping issues are also common
Your care team at GenesisCare can help you manage side effects with medication if needed, advice about diet or your daily routine, and additional support such as wellbeing therapies and exercise medicine.
More than half of all people diagnosed with cancer will need radiotherapy as part of their treatment, and radiotherapy has been included in the treatment plan for 40% of cancers cured. Timely access to the latest equipment and techniques can help to improve outcomes.
Almost all private medical insurers will pay for cancer treatment from the time of diagnosis, including radiotherapy and follow-up appointments.
Private treatment at GenesisCare can give you access to these latest treatments, quickly.
Radiotherapy uses radiation beams directed at the tumour and is focused on one area of your body.
Chemotherapy is a medicine designed to destroy cancer cells and can be given in a number of ways, such as in tablet form or through a vein (intravenously).
The best form of treatment for you will depend on many factors like your type of cancer or the stage your cancer is at. Often, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can complement each other and be used together.