Radiation Therapy for Metastatic Cancer

Radiation therapy is used to treat metastatic cancer painlessly and noninvasively. During treatment, high-energy X-rays are delivered to metastatic lesions in the brain, lungs, liver and bones safely and effectively. Side effects are usually minimal, and most patients return to routine activities immediately after each treatment. Radiation therapy serves as an effective treatment for metastatic lesions throughout the body, working within cancer cells to damage their ability to multiply. The goal of radiation therapy for metastatic cancer is to control pain, alleviate symptoms, improve quality of life and extend life expectancy. In some cases, radiation therapy can help you live longer with your cancer.

Bone Metastases

Bones are another common site for metastases, which occur when cancer cells from a primary cancer spread to the bone. Metastases can form small holes in the affected bone, which weaken the bone and increase the risk of fractures and other issues. Prostate, breast, and lung cancers are the most common sources of bone metastases, though almost any cancer has the ability to spread to the bones. Radiation Therapy is a non-surgical option for treating bone metastases and spinal tumors delivering targeted high-dose radiation to cancer cells while minimizing exposure to healthy tissue.

Brain Metastases

The most common sources of metastases in the brain include lung, breast, and skin cancers, though almost any cancer has the ability to spread to the brain. Chemotherapy is not effective for treating metastatic brain tumors, radiosurgery is. Unlike most radiosurgery systems, the radiation therapy doesn’t need an invasive head frame. Other radiosurgery systems are capable of high-dose radiation treatment. However, nearly all methods use a metal frame attached to the patient’s skull with screws that immobilize the head to accurately target the tumor. Local anesthetic is used for mounting the frames, though frames can be uncomfortable and painful to some extent. The radiation therapy allows patients to receive a high dose of radiation in more than one treatment. Other systems do not. Known as fractionated radiosurgery, this method is particularly beneficial for patients who have previously received radiation therapy, as well as those with tumors near critical areas of the brain. Radiation therapy radiosurgery delivers high-dose radiation while minimizing exposure to healthy tissue by precisely aiming multiple beams of radiation from many different angles. Therefore, radiosurgery is one the most aggressive and effective radiation treatments available for brain metastases. Radiation therapy radiosurgery also is used frequently for patients with more than one metastatic tumor, a condition that usually prevents surgery. This treament can also be used after surgery to prevent regrowth or to treat a tumor that persists or regrows after surgery.

Liver Metastases

Liver metastases develop when a cancerous tumor from another part of the body spreads to the liver through the bloodstream. Common sources of metastases in the liver include colorectal, breast, esophageal, lung, pancreatic, and stomach cancer, though almost any cancer has the ability to spread to the liver. Radiation therapy technology allows for real-time tracking of liver tumor motion, adjusting for movement during the treatment. Radiation therapy’s ability to treat tumors with precisely focused radiation offers an important advantage for liver cancer patients. Accurate to within less than a millimeter, radiosurgery has minimal effect on surrounding healthy tissue. This level of accuracy enables doctors to target metastatic lesions in the liver with high-dose radiation.

Lung Metastases

Lung metastases develop from cancer cells that spread from another cancerous tumor in the body, usually through the bloodstream or through the lymphatic system. Bladder, breast, colon, kidney, and prostate cancer can be the source of the metastatic lesion/tumor in the lung, radiation therapy technology tracks breathing, correcting for tumor movement during the treatment which allows treatment only to the tumor target, minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy lung tissues and critical anatomy and causing fewer, if any, side effects. Patients are able to breathe normally and relax comfortably throughout the treatment.

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