Radiation Therapy

University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center Radiologists Employ State-of-the-Art Techniques for Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Individuals with colorectal cancer may be given radiation therapy before surgery to shrink tumors, during surgery to reduce tumor recurrence or after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells in the affected area. Radiation therapy may also be used to relieve pain and other problems caused by colorectal cancer.

At UH Seidman Cancer Center, we offer a wide range of radiation therapies that are tailored to our patient’s specific needs, including:

  • External radiation: The most common type of machine used for external radiation is called a linear accelerator. This device delivers high-energy x-rays to the patient’s tumor and destroys cancer cells while sparing the surrounding normal tissue. Most patients receive treatment at UH Seidman Cancer Center five days a week for several weeks.
  • Internal radiation (implant radiation or brachytherapy): During this treatment, a radiation oncologist places radioactive material in thin tubes and inserts them directly into or near the patient’s tumor. The implants generally remain in place for several days and are usually removed before the patient returns home from the hospital.
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy: For some patients, radiation is administered during surgery. University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center offers the Mobetron®intraoperative radiation unit, which is used for patients with advanced colorectal tumors that previously would have been deemed unresectable. Operating the only unit in Northeast Ohio, a team that includes a colorectal surgeon and a radiation oncologist can remove certain colorectal tumors and treat any microscopic tumor adherent to adjacent critical structures with radiation to prevent local recurrences. This technology may offer an opportunity to limit resection of adjacent organs such as the sacrum (portion of the backbone) and decrease the complexity and potential complications associated with operations while preventing tumor recurrence.

Side Effects

Side effects mainly depend on the amount of radiation given and the part of the body that is treated. Radiation therapy to the abdomen and pelvis may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools or urgent bowel movements. It also may cause urinary problems, such as being unable to stop the flow of urine from the bladder. In addition, the skin in the affected area may become red, dry and tender. The skin near the anus is especially sensitive to radiation treatment.

Patients are likely to become very tired during radiation therapy, especially in the later weeks of treatment. While resting is important, our physicians usually advise patients to stay as active as they can to promote healing.

Although the side effects of radiation therapy can be distressing, our doctors can usually treat or control them. Most side effects dissipate when radiation treatment ends.

Additional Radiation Treatments Offered at UH

  • Gamma Knife®: a noninvasive radiosurgical option that enables physicians to deliver intense doses of radiation to the targeted area(s) while largely sparing the surrounding tissues
  • Yttrium bead therapy for liver metastasis: radioactive glass bead therapy that appears to have a low level of side effects compared with traditional radiation or chemotherapy
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for liver metastasis: produces localized tumor destruction by heating the soft tissues in the vicinity of the radiofrequency ablation electrode; this technology has been applied in metastatic colorectal cancer to reduce the survival gap between resectable and unresectable disease

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