You may have radiation therapy before or after surgery to reduce the risk of your sarcoma coming back. If your tumor cannot be removed surgically, doctors may use radiation therapy to control it. Radiation may also be used to reduce the size of the tumor or to relieve pain and other symptoms.
We've opened several studies looking at combinations of radiation therapy and immunotherapy — using radiation to make immunotherapy more effective, increasing the body's immune response against cancer.
Conventional external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT)
Conventional EBRT uses a machine called a linear accelerator to send beams of high-energy X-rays (photons) toward the cancer. Typically, EBRT is given five days a week (Monday through Friday) for several weeks. The procedure is painless, and each treatment lasts only a few minutes.
There are several forms of EBRT. Your radiation oncologist will determine the form that’s most appropriate for your tumors, set the dosage and schedule for your treatments and help you manage any side effects. Learn more about EBRT.
Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT)
IORT is a fast, effective and precise form of radiation used during surgery to treat tumors. It may be used to treat tumors that came into contact with the tumor during surgery.
IORT takes just a few minutes to deliver and uses only a fraction of the total radiation given over a traditional multi-week course of EBRT. UWMC is the only hospital in the WWAMI region (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) to offer this treatment. Learn more about IORT.
Proton therapy delivers radiation with great precision, significantly limiting radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissues. This may reduce side effects from treatment and make proton therapy a better choice for certain sarcomas that are anatomically complex, such as those in the skull or spine. Learn more about proton therapy.
Fast neutron therapy
Neutron therapy bombards cancer cells with neutrons. There are two advantages to using neutrons instead of photons or electrons.
- Neutron beams are much more powerful. They deposit about 20 to 100 times as much energy into the target tissue.
- Neutron beams are more likely to damage both strands of a cancer cell’s DNA, rather than only one strand, making it harder for the cells to repair themselves and survive.
UWMC is the only place in the United States to offer neutron therapy, and doctors here are internationally recognized for their neutron therapy expertise. We sometimes use neutron therapy to treat sarcomas when we believe this may be more effective than conventional forms of radiation therapy. Read more about fast neutron therapy on the UW Medicine website.