Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be given before or after surgery to reduce the risk of 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.
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 not painful, and each treatment lasts only about five to seven minutes.
Patients of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) may receive EBRT at these locations:
- SCCA Radiation Oncology at the SCCA clinic on Lake Union
- SCCA Radiation Oncology at UW Medicine’s Northwest Hospital & Medical Center
- University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC)
There are several forms of EBRT. If your treatment involves radiation therapy, your radiation oncologist will determine the form that’s most appropriate for your tumors. Your radiation oncologist will also set the dosage and schedule for your treatments, help you manage any side effects, and work closely with other members of your care team. Learn more in the section on radiation oncology.
Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT)
IORT is a fast and effective form of radiation therapy that uses electron-beam radiation during surgery to treat tumors that cannot be completely removed from the pelvic or abdominal regions. When tumors are attached to important organs or nerves, or if cancer cells might have been left behind when a tumor was resected, surgeons can move normal structures out of the way during surgery to expose the area for this high-dose radiation treatment. It can be used to treat abdominal sarcomas that are attached to the back wall of the abdomen and recurrent tumors.
IORT takes only a few minutes to deliver and uses only a fraction of the total radiation given over a traditional multi-week course of EBRT. It delivers precise radiation to the tumor while limiting exposure to surrounding tissues. UWMC is the only hospital in the Pacific Northwest to offer this treatment. Learn more about IORT.
Internal Radiation Therapy
Internal radiation therapy, also known as brachytherapy, is a procedure that delivers radiation to a tumor using radioactive material placed inside the body. This type of therapy may be used after surgery for sarcoma to prevent tumor recurrence. Learn more about internal radiation therapy.
Normal cells that are near your cancer may be affected by radiation, which can lead to side effects. The side effects vary greatly from person to person and depend on the type and dose of the radiation and the area of the body being treated. Your treatment team can tell you about the side effects that are most common with your treatment.
Let your team know about any side effects you experience. Your doctor may give you medicines to prevent or relieve side effects. For general advice, see the symptom management section.
The time it takes to get over some side effects and regain energy depends on many factors, including your overall health and your treatment. Many side effects improve or go away after treatment is finished because your healthy cells recover over time.