Radiation Oncology: External Beam VS Internal Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses targeted doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells within a patient’s body with the hopes of beating cancer or alleviating symptoms. The cancerous cells either die immediately after treatment or later on due to the radiation exposure. This form of treatment is so prevalent that nearly 65% of cancer patients receive radiation therapy in their treatment plan.

It’s important for patients to understand the ins and outs of radiation therapy in the case that they have to undergo the treatment. So, we decided to provide you with a breakdown to show you that it isn’t as complicated as it might seem. Basically, there are two types of radiation therapy: external beam radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy. However, within these two categories, there are various tactics to deliver the radiation. Let’s get started!

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBT)

This form of radiation therapy delivers the radiation to the patient through a machine that is outside of the body. This is key—it is a non-invasive tactic. Typically, the machine that is used is the LINAC which is also known as a linear accelerator. The LINAC uses electricity to create a rapidly moving stream of photons, which is a basic unit of light, that produces high-energy radiation. The patient’s oncologist will target this beam at the tumor. See, pretty straight forward!

Typically, patients receive their treatment on an outpatient basis. The patient’s schedule will largely depend on their cancer, the stage of cancer, and your doctor’s recommendations. However, a typical schedule is once a day for five days a week. This can last anywhere for 2-9 weeks in total. The actual radiation therapy session usually takes around 10-30 minutes to complete. Funny enough, the majority of this time is simply spent positioning the patient rather than actually delivering the radiation!

Internal Radiation Therapy

Also known as brachytherapy, internal radiation therapy delivers radiation to the patient by placing radioactive isotopes inside of the body. The isotope is placed within a small capsule in order to contain the material. This capsule is either placed in or near the tumor so it minimizes the damage caused by the isotope. In the case that the isotope is left in place for numerous weeks, it will decompose which ends the radiation exposure. The remaining capsule doesn’t cause a patient’s body any harm.

The main perk of internal radiation therapy is its ability to deliver a higher dose of radiation to a smaller area than external beam radiation can deliver. There are various types of internal radiation therapy, however all use some form of capsules, needles, tubes, wires, etc. Some of the capsules stay inside of the patient’s body while others are only left in for specific period of time. The amount of time it takes to undergo internal radiation is completely dependent upon your case and the dose you will need. Consult your doctor to hear about your options.

External Beam VS Internal Radiation Therapy

At Rosetta Radiology, we proudly offer external beam radiation therapy. Our esteemed oncologists are ACR certified radiologists and deliver quality care to each and every one of out patients. If you’re currently in need of radiation therapy, contact our office. We would love to assist you along your journey to recovery. 

Leave A Comment