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Radiation Treatment at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

About 50% of people with cancer have some type of radiation during their cancer treatment. For most, it's on an outpatient basis.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center radiation experts use the most advanced cancer treatments. And our nurse navigators are here for you and your loved ones from your first appointment on.

What Is Radiation Cancer Treatment?

Radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy) kills cancer and shrinks tumors. It uses high-energy waves to damage the DNA of cancer cells. Your doctor may use it to shrink tumors to make surgery or chemo more effective.

Based on the type and stage of your cancer, radiation may be the only treatment you need.

We'll work with the rest of your care team to come up with the best treatment plan for you.

We offer radiation treatment for all types of cancers, including:

What Is Advanced Radiation Cancer Treatment?

UPMC Hillman doctors use the latest technology to treat your cancer.

Our experts direct high doses of radiation to your tumor with precision. This means less damage to the nearby healthy tissue, vital when treating cancers in delicate parts of the body.

By damaging the DNA of cancer cells, advanced radiation cancer treatment kills or slows down their growth. As damaged cells die, the body breaks them down and removes them.

Our goal is to provide treatment while reducing side effects.

Treatments fall into one of three main types:

  • Radiosurgery uses radiation instead of surgical tools to remove or destroy cancer. It's a non-invasive treatment that provides the same results as surgery.
  • External beam radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to send radiation to the tumor. Treatment lasts a few minutes. Most people go for treatment 5 days a week over a few weeks.
  • Internal beam radiation therapy uses a radioactive "seed" implanted close to the tumor. The seed gives off large doses of radiation. This approach means less discomfort and fewer office visits.

Types of radiosurgery treatments we offer at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

We offer the following Varian radiosurgery treatments:

  • The Edge® treatment machine. This precision system treats tumors of the lung, brain, and spine.
  • HyperArc™. This tool uses a frameless mask to protect you during treatment for brain cancer.
  • Halcyon™ treatment machine. This machine takes pictures and performs radiosurgery, which reduces treatment times.

Our team also offers you early access to some of the newest cancer clinical trials.

What to Expect During Cancer Radiation Treatment

Your radiation doctor will design your treatment plan that will:

  • Ensure treatment only affects your cancer while protecting the rest of your body.
  • Outline how much radiation you'll receive.
  • Include your total number of treatment days.

Radiation therapists at UPMC Hillman:

  • Have training in radiation treatment delivery and patient care.
  • Will treat any health problems that may arise during your treatment.
  • Are here for you before, during, and after radiation cancer treatments.

Your first radiation cancer treatment consult

A nurse will meet you when you arrive at UPMC Hillman.

You'll then meet your radiation oncologist who will:

  • Ask you about your type of cancer.
  • Do a physical exam.
  • Explain your treatment plan and the type of radiotherapy they feel will work best for you.

Don't be afraid to ask questions during your first visit. It's helpful to bring a friend or loved to the appointment to take notes.

Your second visit – simulation and treatment planning

Your second visit will simulate your planned treatment. You won't receive radiation treatment during this visit.

To plan your treatment, your doctor:

  • Uses a powerful CT scanner to take pictures of your body to locate your tumor. This shows us where to target the radiation treatment.
  • May mark your skin with a temporary or permanent tattoo at the tumor site. This helps us aim the radiation treatment to the correct place.
  • May use a special table to keep you in the same position during each radiation treatment. For head and neck cancer treatment, they'll take a mold of your face to make a special mesh mask. They will secure the mask to the table to hold your head in place. They may also use tape, foam sponges, headrests, molds, or plaster casts.

Third visit – your first radiation cancer treatment

Your radiation therapist will:

  • Greet you in the waiting area.
  • Tell you what to expect during your first treatment and answer your questions.
  • Get you into the right position for your treatment.
  • Take a final set of images as a quality check before giving you your dose of radiation.

Ongoing radiation cancer treatment

How many radiation treatments you need will depend on your diagnosis.

Your ongoing treatments may take as little as 15 minutes over several weeks.

On treatment days, many people can go back to work and resume their normal routine.

Cancer Care Close to Home

Our treatment planning focuses on your health, safety, and comfort.

When you need radiation five days a week for a few weeks, having treatment close to home can make a difference. We provide radiation cancer treatment throughout Pennsylvania and in Cumberland, Md.

Contact Us About Radiation Oncology at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

To learn more about radiation treatments or to make an appointment you can:

Doctor looking at image on computer.

What To Expect

Radiation therapy treats a wide variety of cancers. It shrinks or eliminates tumors and can help cancer from reoccurring.

Read about what to expect during radiation.
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Diagnostic Services

Radiation oncologists use a variety of diagnostic and planning techniques to help plan the proper cancer treatment, including PET-CT, 4D CT scans and more.

Read about the diagnostic services we offer.
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Treatment Services

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center offers three modes of radiation oncology treatment: external beam radiation therapy, internal radiation therapy and radiosurgery.

Read about the treatment services we offer.