Radiation therapy can be used for colorectal cancer treatment. While it is a fairly common treatment for cancers of the rectum, it is used more sparingly for the treatment of colon cancer. Radiation therapy can be used before or after surgery and is often combined with chemotherapy. Both treatments can be given at the same time, or one right after the other.
Radiation therapy works by using highly targeted energy to destroy cancerous cells. There are several different ways that this energy can be delivered:
- During external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), radioactive beams are aimed at a tumor from a source outside the body. The most common source is a machine known as a linear accelerator. Patients typically undergo several EBRT sessions a week for a period of several weeks.
- During internal radiation therapy (also known as brachytherapy), radioactive implants are inserted into (or near) the tumor. These implants may be designed to dissolve after they have finished treating the tumor, or they can be removed after treatment is complete.
- During systemic radiation therapy, radioactive medications are swallowed or injected into a patient’s body, where they can travel through the bloodstream to destroy cancerous cells.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, each patient’s radiation therapy plan is tailored to his or her specific needs by a multispecialty team of oncologists. This team includes radiation oncologists, who design the treatment plan; radiation therapists, who operate the machinery used to deliver the radiation therapy; dosimetrists, who program this machinery; and a number of other physicists, nurses and supportive care specialists who ensure treatment is properly planned and carried out. It is not only the technological advancements that we offer, but the experience and skill of this team, that enables us to produce the best possible outcomes and improve each patient’s quality of life during treatment.