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Logan Health Radiation Oncology

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Welcome to Logan Health Radiation Oncology, a department of Logan Health Medical Center. We are proud to serve the Flathead Valley and surrounding area with individualized, quality patient care and advanced treatment modalities.

The major goal of radiation therapy is to maximize curing cancer while maintaining optimal organ function and quality of life. Because each patient’s case presents unique challenges and requires individualized attention, we urge you to consult your radiation oncologist about which treatment plan is best for you. It is extremely important to seek out an expert team of physicians who specialize in your type of cancer and bring you the broadest experience available.

What Is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation Therapy and You (PDF)

Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy, is the use of various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. Doctors use radiation therapy to try to cure cancer, to control the growth of cancer, or to relieve symptoms such as pain.

Radiation therapy works by damaging the DNA within cancer cells and destroying the ability of the cancer cells to reproduce. When these damaged cells die, the body naturally eliminates them. Normal cells also are affected by radiation, but they are able to repair themselves in a way that cancer cells cannot.

While you undergo radiation therapy, a team of highly trained medical professionals will be working together to make sure you receive the best care possible. A radiation oncologist, a doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer, leads this team.

Patients of Logan Health Radiation Oncology often receive other treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy or surgery as well as radiation therapy. To ensure the best possible outcome, this team approach requires collaboration and coordination among all the specialists on a patient’s treatment team. During your first visit you will meet with your radiation oncologist, who may consult with other specialists as necessary before your treatment begins to determine the best course of action.

Consultation

Once you have been referred to Logan Health Radiation Oncology, you will meet with the radiation oncologist for an initial consultation. Typically this appointment takes one to two hours, depending on the nature and complexity of the cancer diagnosis.

During this office visit, the doctor will evaluate your medical history, surgical history, current medications, drug allergies and lifestyle. The nurse will obtain baseline vital statistics, including weight and blood pressure. Your radiation oncologist will review your medical records, including diagnostic imaging such as CT or MRI, as well as current laboratory results. The doctor will discuss the benefits and risks of radiation treatment and answer any questions you might have.

At the end of your consultation, the doctor may schedule additional diagnostic imaging or other tests needed to fully evaluate the disease and prepare for treatment planning.

Simulation and Treatment Planning

The next step in preparing to treat cancer is to schedule a simulation, or treatment planning session. This procedure usually takes place a few days to a few weeks after your first visit with the doctor and after the decision to initiate radiation treatment. Typically simulation is completed in less than an hour, in a single session.

During simulation, the radiation therapist, under the guidance of the radiation oncologist, will place you in position on the CT simulator. Anatomy images are captured for the sole purpose of designing a treatment plan specific to each patient’s cancer. Sometimes the radiation therapist will use devices or molds to manipulate the position of your body on the table to get the best images. Some devices will immobilize parts of your body so that treatment is given precisely in the same location.

After simulation, the radiation oncologist, with the help of the dosimetrist, will use sophisticated treatment planning technology to design the best possible course of treatment. Once the planning is complete, the doctor will approve a treatment plan and write a prescription that serves as an outline of treatment. A week or two after the simulation, a start date and time for a first radiation treatment will be determined.

Treatment

Radiation therapy uses radiation to kill or damage cancer cells, essentially preventing them from growing and multiplying. It is a tested and effective treatment for many types of cancer. Treatment involves the controlled application of radiation to cancers anywhere in the body. Then the body’s normal healthy tissues and cells are able to recover from exposure to radiation.

The radiation oncology team customizes a treatment plan to meet each patient’s specific needs. Treatment is prescribed and delivered based on many different factors such as:

  • Size and location of the cancer
  • Type of cancer, and whether it has spread or metastasized to other parts of the body
  • Goal of treatment, such as palliative symptom relief or cure of cancer

Each radiation treatment is like having an X-ray or CT scan; it is painless and generally well-tolerated by most people. Most radiation treatments are done in the outpatient setting and are noninvasive procedures typically lasting 15 to 20 minutes. Most patients experience none or very few side effects so they are able to continue with their normal daily activities while they are undergoing treatment.

External beam radiation therapy will not make patients radioactive, meaning these patients are safe to be around other people, including pregnant women.

Follow-Up Care

After you have completed radiation therapy, your doctor will talk with you about cancer surveillance. Most patients return to the radiation oncologist for regular follow-up visits. Others are referred back to their original doctor, to a surgeon or to a medical oncologist (a doctor who is trained to give chemotherapy, or treatment with anticancer drugs). Your oncology team will track your progress, manage any side effects and monitor your overall health.

Your follow-up care plan may include regular physical examinations and/or medical tests to monitor your recovery. This plan is usually based on medical guidelines for a specific diagnosis. Your doctor will also consider your individual needs and preferences.

Treatment Options

External Beam Radiation

External beam radiation is a painless procedure that usually takes less than 30 minutes. It is similar to getting an X-ray. Conventional treatment is given in small doses daily, five days a week for several weeks at a time. Your doctor will determine the length of your treatment based on many factors including your tumor size and location, as well as the technique used to deliver your treatment.

  • Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) uses CT (computerized tomography) or X-ray to guide beams of radiation by directing the treatment to the tumor while avoiding nearby healthy tissue. Because imaging is used in real time, your radiation team can better control the precision of treatment by comparing images to ensure the most accurate delivery of radiation.
  • Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) is a type of radiation treatment that uses diagnostic imaging such as CT or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to create a specialized treatment plan designed specifically to target your tumor.
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a type of 3D-CRT with more sophistication that allows radiation to be formed to the exact dimensions of your tumor. In addition, the intensity of the beam can be altered so that damage to healthy, normal tissue is further minimized.
  • Stereotactic body radio surgery (SBRT) is a sophisticated type of radiation treatment that precisely focuses multiple beams of radiation to the tumor from several different angles. Unlike conventional treatment, with SBRT large doses of radiation can be delivered to the entire tumor, typically in one to five treatments that may last as long as 30 minutes each.
  • Stereotactic radio surgery (SRS) is similar to SBRT, but given in one single dose and generally to the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord.

Internal Radiation

Brachytherapy is also known as internal radiation. Small sources of radiation are placed in or around the tumor and may be permanent or temporary, depending on the type of cancer and treatment indicated.

  • High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy is typically delivered in high doses over a couple of treatments. Intracavity HDR is often used for breast, cervical and vaginal cancers. The radiation is delivered to the site from the cavity left by the recently removed tumor.
  • Low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy is used to treat some types of prostate cancer. The radioactive seeds, which are about the size of a rice grain, are implanted at the tumor site through catheters. The seeds remain near the tumor. Over time, the seeds become nonradioactive.

Contact Us

Logan Health Radiation Oncology
Swank Radiation Oncology Center
343 Sunnyview Lane
Kalispell, MT 59901

Phone and Fax
Phone: (406) 752-1790
Fax: (406) 756-3529

Office Hours
Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
By appointment (please call to schedule)