A doctor standing in front of a radiation machine

Let's Talk About Radiation Therapy Advances

Radiation therapy is one way to treat lung cancer. There have been a lot of advances in the field in recent years, so I wanted to share a few updates.

Understanding radiation therapy advancements

A radiation oncologist determines the type of radiation, dose, and how to effectively target the lung cancer cells. While determining this it can be difficult to target the lung cancer cells while avoiding the healthy cells. Radiation treatment has advanced significantly and what we see today is even different than what we have seen in the 2010s and the 2000s.

According to this MD Anderson article there are been 4 big advances that we can talk about.1

Real-time motion management

Using radiation treatment for lung cancer has been tricky because the lungs are always in motion. As a patient, we can only hold our breath for so long. Up until now, the patient has been asked to “hold your breath” while radiation was being targeted to the lung tumors. A new technology called real-time motion management helps the radiation oncologist to make real-time changes to accommodate the lungs' movements.

SABR, SBRT, and proton therapy

The second thing worth noting is the advances made in stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SABR) and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). These two types of radiation are used over a short period of time and a high dose. Because of these advances, the patient is now looking at being at visiting the hospital each day for one or two weeks as opposed to what it was prior at up to six weeks.

The third advance in radiation therapy can be found in proton therapy. This type of radiation can be used in combination with other therapies including immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Proton therapy is best used in situations where precise targeting of the tumor is needed such as when it is close to the heart.

Using radiation therapy in new ways

The last advance in radiation therapy is that it can be used for all stages of the disease. Often radiation was used in the early stages versus having cancer surgically removed. However, it is now being used for late-stage lung cancer as well to prevent the progression of the disease.

Remember to talk with your doctor

When considering radiation as part of your treatment plan it is important to make sure that the facility where you will be getting the radiation has dose constraints for the major organs such as the lungs, heart, liver, and esophagus. Determining which type of radiation treatment is best for your specific case can be tricky and that is why it is important to seek out information from the leading radiation oncologists in the field of lung cancer.

Let me know in the comments what your experience has been with radiation. Have you chosen radiation therapy instead of surgery? Or have you had radiation therapy in combination with another treatment? It is important to note that everyone has a unique treatment plan so while radiation is useful for one person it may not be the best option for another.

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