Radiation therapy destroys sarcoma cells by exposing them to high-energy particles, such as X-rays. This treatment is often provided after surgery, with the goal of eliminating any microscopic cells that remain in the body after the operation. In some cases, it can be provided before surgery to shrink a tumor and make it easier for the surgeon to remove the sarcoma. Radiation therapy can also be provided alone if a patient is not a good candidate for surgery.
Radiation therapy is commonly used as a treatment for soft tissue sarcomas. It is less effective in treating sarcomas of the bones, so it is used much more sparingly in these cases. However, it can be used for osteosarcomas that develop in the hip or jaw, when surgery is a less promising treatment option.
There are several different options for sarcoma radiation therapy. Depending on the size and location of a tumor, a patient’s treatment team might recommend:
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy – For this treatment, a machine generates beams of different lengths and intensities, then aims the beams at a tumor from outside of the body.
- Intraoperative radiation therapy – This treatment involves the administration of a single, large dose of radiation therapy in an operating room before the incision is closed after a tumor has been surgically removed.
- Brachytherapy – Also known as internal radiation therapy, this treatment uses a small amount of radioactive material that is implanted near the tumor.
While advanced technologies and radiation therapy delivery methods have led to better treatments for individuals with sarcoma, receiving treatment from skilled practitioners, such as those at Moffitt Cancer Center, is crucial for obtaining the best possible outcomes.