Radiation treatment is the use of high energy x-ray beams to kill tumor cells. Radiation therapy is planned and administered by radiation oncologists. It used for malignant soft tissue tumors and metastatic bone tumors. Radiation is also used for a few benign but aggressive soft tissue tumors. Many metastatic bone tumors are treated with radiation alone.
The technology is continuously evolving and newer machines are able to target with more specificity the area of tissue to be treated while sparing normal tissues from unnecessary radiation. At Virginia Hospital Center , patients have access to the leading-edge radiation oncology techniques, including CyberKnife® and TrueBeam® radiotherapy.
The main side effects of radiation therapy is transient irritation of the overlying skin and, for some people, mild fatigue during therapy. Longer term side effects include fibrosis (scarring) of the treated tissues, and when the axilla (arm-pit) or groin are treated, chronic swelling of the arm or leg ("lymphedema") can result. Rare complications can include bone fracture and even radiation-induced cancers.
However, despite these potential complications, radiation therapy is an indispensable tool for treating soft tissue sarcomas as it can significantly reduce the risk of sarcomas coming back ("recurring").
However, the selection of the type of radiation, calculation of doses and angles of treatment are very technical and complex (see image below). The details of treatment planning differ for each location and type of tumor. This is why it is important to work with a radiation oncologist experienced in treating sarcomas, like Dr. Nasr who is a member of our team. In many cases, the surgeon and radiation oncologist will work together on the radiation plan in order to maximize effectiveness and minimize the side effects.