Our Services

Radiation Oncology

Northern Beaches Cancer care offer the best in radiation therapy treatment for cancer patients, with the most up to date equipment available, allowing for unprecedented accuracy when treating complex tumours, whilst minimising possible side effects.

The latest Radiation Therapy treatment techniques are available to all patients and tumour groups including Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT), Sterotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) and Volumetric Arc Therapy (VMAT).

 

What is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation is energy that is carried by waves or a stream of particles that can alter the genetic code of a cell (a process called ionisation). Radiation Therapy attacks reproducing cancer cells, but it can also affect reproducing cells of normal tissues. The damage to normal cells is what causes side effects.

Each time Radiation Therapy is given it involves a balance between destroying the cancer cells and sparing the normal cells. There is no perfectly safe dose of ionising radiation and all decisions involve a balance between risk and benefit. Radiation is usually more effective on cells that are very active or quickly dividing. It is less effective on cells that are in the resting phase or that are dividing slowly. Radiosensitivity is a term used to describe how vulnerable a cell is to radiation damage.

The goals of Radiation Therapy can differ between patients depending on the nature and extent of their cancer.

Radiotherapy has been shown to assist in:

  1. The treatment of cancer utilising Radiation Therapy alone. The reasons for this include:

    1. Curing the disease;

    2. Living longer; and

    3. Enjoying an improved quality of life.

  2. The treatment of cancer when used adjunct to surgery and/or Chemotherapy. This is to:

    1. Reduce the size of the cancer prior to surgery; and/or

    2. Optimise local control where there is a high likelihood of local relapse after surgery.

  3. The palliation of symptoms in patients with advanced incurable disease.

What should I expect during treatment? 

If you require Radiation Therapy, your Doctor will arrange an appointment for consultation with a Radiation Oncologist. After this you will be scheduled for a planning session. Taking approximately one hour, you will meet with your Doctor and a team of Radiation Therapists to outline a treatment schedule. Measurements of the tumour will be made and the best method of delivering the therapy decided upon. This is also an opportunity for you to ask questions.

As the number of days required for treatment varies from patient to patient, the planning session will also help determine the correct number of treatment sessions for you.

Your daily treatment sessions will last approximately 10-15 minutes and the time of these sessions will generally remain constant through the treatment schedule.

You will be reviewed daily by your Radiation Therapists and, quite often, also by the Nurse. Your Doctor will generally review your progress on a weekly basis.

If you have any concerns about your treatment, please notify your Radiation Therapist, who will organise for you to meet with your Doctor or the Nurse as soon as possible.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is available at the Northern Cancer Institute, located in the adjacent building from Northern Beaches Cancer Care. 

Chemotherapy and Hormone Therapy have complementary roles to the use of surgery and radiotherapy, both in the initial treatment and in the palliation of symptoms.

  • Chemotherapy and Hormone Therapy are predominantly aimed at trying to kill or stabilize tumour growth
  • Chemotherapeutic drugs are essentially cell-poisoning agents whereas hormone therapies are growth-restraining agents
  • Other forms of drugs currently used in the treatment of cancer include immune system modulators, conjugated antibody therapies as well as other highly specialised drugs.

The drugs may be administered in a variety of ways including intravenously, intramuscularly or they may be able to be taken orally. That is:

  • You might simply swallow a pill. If your Chemotherapy is a pill, just swallow it as your doctor prescribes
  • Sometimes Chemotherapy is given like a flu shot. The shots may be given in your doctor’s office, a hospital, a clinic, or at home
  • Sometimes drugs are given right into your veins through a needle. This is called an IV (intravenous) injection.
  • You might take these drugs before or after surgery, with radiation (x-ray) treatment or you might take the drugs by themselves.

You and your Doctor will decide on what Chemotherapy is best for your cancer. Together, you will plan a schedule that works for you.