Cancer Program

New Orleans Radiation Therapy

Comprehensive radiation treatment at Touro

Radiation therapy is a common cancer treatment. There are several different types of radiation therapy, at least one of which is used to treat more than half of all cancer patients. It can be used on its own or with other treatments like surgery or chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy involves beaming cancer cells with waves like gamma rays or X-rays, which damage the genetic material in the cancerous cells. Radiation therapy can also destroy healthy cells but is far more harmful to cancerous cells.

If your doctor recommends radiation therapy, you may receive it at one of three stages:

  • Before surgery, in order to shrink a tumor
  • During surgery, in order to direct radiation at a tumor
  • After surgery, in order to prevent remaining cancer cells from growing

How radiation therapy is administered

There are two ways to administer radiation therapy: Externally or internally. External radiation is used to treat large areas in multiple locations of your body, which is particularly useful if your cancer has spread. Patients undergoing external radiation generally receive the treatment five days per week for anywhere from one to eight weeks. Each session lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

Internal radiation – also known as brachytherapy – is used to deliver a large amount of radiation to a small area. It can be administered through an IV, by mouth, or through an injection. The radiation is generally placed in or near a tumor.

Side effects of radiation therapy

The side effects experienced during internal or external radiation depend on the body part undergoing treatment and the dosage given. Some patients do not experience any side effects, while others experience many.

Some of the most common side effects of radiation therapy are:

  • Hair loss
  • Skin irritation
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Earaches
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bladder irritation
  • Frequent urination
  • Sexual dysfunction

AlignRT System with patient on table

Advanced radiation treatment for breast cancer

AlignRT is a system which tracks a patient’s position before and during radiation therapy, to aid in setup and treatment accuracy. A new study suggests AlignRT helps to reduce radiation heart damage when used with Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH).

The hidden danger in treating left-breast cancerRadiation therapy has been shown to be a highly effective treatment for breast cancer. But the proximity of the left breast to the heart leaves the heart vulnerable to radiation exposure. This has been shown to lead to serious long-term cardiac complications.

Patients breathe in different ways at different times. We can achieve optimal breath hold during planning, but during treatment have found that patients may not repeat the same movement precisely to separate the heart from the breast. That’s why here at Touro, we use AlignRT to accurately reproduce the breath hold achieved in planning, and thus minimize the potential for radiation-induced cardiac perfusion defects.

How AlignRT works to protect your heart

During treatment, your motion is tracked by AlignRT using a technique called Surface Guided Radiation Therapy or SGRT. SGRT (Surface Guided Radiation Therapy) uses your external surface to help ensure that radiation dose is reproducibly applied in accordance with the treatment plan. AlignRT uses three camera units to monitor thousands of points on your skin. The system can sense movements in six degrees of freedom — up and down, forward and back, and side to side, plus all rotations — with sub-millimeter accuracy. The radiation beam is only activated once the you are correctly positioned, and the beam is automatically held if you move.

What you can experience

Prior to treatment, you will come to Touro for CT treatment simulation. During simulation, we coach you on the breath-hold technique, and then conduct a CT scan while you hold your breath (this usually takes 15-25 seconds). When you come in for actual treatment, you lie on the treatment couch and AlignRT tracks your position. You take a deep breath and when you reach the same position as in you CT, AlignRT enables the radiation beam. If you move out of position, the beam is turned off.

Contact Touro’s radiation department at 504.897.8387 to see if you’re a candidate for this Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) treatment.