About Radiation Oncology

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease that causes abnormal cells in the body to grow out of control. These abnormal cells form a cancerous tumour. Cancer may spread to other parts of the body through direct invasion of the original tumour or via the lymphatic system or bloodstream.

There are many different types of cancer and different locations in the body where cancer may form. People of all ages can develop cancer, although it is most common in adults.   

To find out more about ‘what is cancer’ as well as types of cancer, please visit http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/

Impact of cancer

Cancer treatment is an important health priority area with cancer having a major impact on the Australian community.  One in every three people will develop cancer in their lifetime.

However, success is being achieved in the fight against cancer. The survival rates for cancer have improved dramatically in the past 20 years. This is thanks to research, early detection of cancer and access to a better range of treatments.

Did you know cancer affects an increasing number of Australian families each year?

Treatment of cancer

Cancer can be treated in different ways depending on the cancer type. Radiation Oncology (radiotherapy), Surgical Oncology (surgery) and Medical Oncology (chemotherapy) are all proven, effective ways to treat cancer. Each treatment type can be used alone or alongside each other.

What is Radiation Oncology?

Varian True Beam Linear AcceleratorRadiation oncology (also known as radiation therapy or radiotherapy) involves the use of radiation to treat cancer and other non-malignant conditions. Radiotherapy can be used to treat almost all cancers anywhere in the body and over half of all cancer patients require radiotherapy. Most people in Australia who have radiotherapy are treated with high energy X-rays produced by a large machine called a linear accelerator (linac).

Radiation Oncology professionals use rapidly changing technology to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of radiotherapy, including better control and cure of tumours, as well as reducing side effects. It is an exciting and changing field of medicine.

Radiation Oncology is made up of three unique medical specialties that focus on the treatment of cancer patients with radiotherapy; namely radiation oncologists, radiation therapists and radiation oncology medical physicists.

Radiation as cancer treatment - how does it work?

Radiotherapy uses highly precise doses of radiation to damage or destroy cancer cells. Patients are treated in controlled measures called fractions, over a number of weeks – this gives normal cells time to recover between treatments and allows high doses of radiation to be delivered to the cancer site, increasing the chances of cure.

Personalised Radiotherapy CareRadiotherapy is a personalised treatment: every patient’s treatment is unique and tailored to suit where the cancer is situated in the body as well as other considerations such as the size of the tumour and whether it has spread.

The process of delivering radiotherapy treatment is complex and involves an understanding of medical physics, radiobiology, radiation safety, and the interaction radiotherapy has with other treatments that the patient may also be receiving. Each step in the process of radiotherapy requires strict quality control measures to ensure that patients receive the set treatment correctly.