Steven G. Lester, MD, FACRO
Maneesh Gossain, MD
Richard J. Lee, MD

Recently Diagnosed

What Is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy uses a stream of high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays or electrons to destroy cancer cells. Other names for radiation therapy include radiotherapy or x-ray therapy. Radiation therapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer and is used in more than half of all cancer cases. It is the primary treatment for many types of cancer. Thousands of people become free of cancer after receiving radiation therapy alone or in combination with surgery, chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

How Does Radiation Therapy Work?

Cancer cells grow and divide more rapidly than many of the normal cells around them. High doses of radiation can kill cells usually by destroying their ability to divide, and it has proven to be particularly effective in killing cancer cells and shrinking tumors. Although some normal cells are affected by radiation, most normal cells recover more fully from the effects of radiation than do cancer cells. When radiation treatments are given for cancer, special care is taken to ensure that as much normal tissue as possible is spared from radiation exposure. The radiation dose is precisely measured and carefully aimed to kill as many cancer cells as possible while sparing normal tissue.

Who Gives Radiation Therapy?

During your radiation therapy, a team of medical professionals will care for you.

The Radiation Oncologist is a physician who specializes in the use of radiation therapy to treat cancer and other diseases and serves as the leader of the team and directs all aspects of the patients’ radiation treatments.

The Radiation Physicist has a degree in medical physics and supervises the technical aspects of radiation treatments; ensuring that the radiation equipment is working properly and gives you the correct dose as prescribed by your radiation oncologist.

The Dosimetrist calculates the dose of radiation given to the patient, using highly advanced computer technology.

The Radiation Therapist operates the machine that administers radiation therapy on a daily basis. Your doctor will not actually administer your radiation treatments on a daily basis, but he or she will actively oversee all aspects of your treatment.

What Is The Difference Between Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy?

Chemotherapy involves medications given by injections or pills for cancer. This type of treatment is circulated throughout the entire body and is generally prescribed by a medical oncologist. Radiation therapy is x-rays produced by a linear accelerator or a radioactive source and is prescribed by a radiation oncologist. The radiation beams are focused on a very specific area of the body, and thus the effects are highly localized. The radioactive implants are placed inside the affected organ and confine the dose to that area. Unlike chemotherapy, which exposes the entire body to cancer-fighting chemicals, radiation therapy affects only the tumor and the surrounding area.

How Do I Choose a Radiation Oncologist?

Choosing a radiation oncologist is an important part of your cancer treatment. You will be spending a lot of time, and investing a lot of trust in your doctor, so it’s important that you make the right decision.

You may be limited by location and insurance carrier as to who will be treating you, but you do have a choice within those limits.

Where Can I Find a Radiation Oncologist?
  • Referrals from family doctor or specialists
  • Referrals from your insurance carrier
  • Word of mouth from friends and family
  • Reputable websites
  • Advertisements
Questions to Ask Your Doctor When You’re Being Referred to a Radiation Oncologist
  • How long has this physician been in practice and how long have you worked with him/her?
  • Is the physician’s office located close to my home?
  • Does the physician utilize the most advanced forms of radiation therapy available?
  • Is this doctor board certified?
  • Do they take my insurance plan and do they offer bilingual services?
  • What have past patients had to say about this physician?
  • What hospital system is the doctor affiliated with?
  • Will the doctor’s affiliation affect which hospital I can or cannot be seen at?
Do I Have to Choose the Radiation Oncologist My Doctor Recommends?

Choosing a radiation oncologist is one of the most important decisions in your cancer treatment. That being said, you don’t have to always choose the doctor that you are referred to. Getting a second opinion is ok, and is often considered a best practice. Do your research and ask questions. Finding a doctor who is educated, experienced and who you feel comfortable with is the first step in receiving quality cancer care. Remember, your radiation oncologist will be with you during your full course of treatment, and it’s important that you make the decision that you feel most comfortable with.

When Will I Start Treatment?

First, you will come in for a consult. During the consult the doctor will discuss with you your treatment options.

After the consult, a CT scan will be scheduled, and will take place at our office. This scan is not for diagnosis but for radiation planning, called simulation. Once the necessary scan is completed, our staff will start the planning process. Your physician will use the images from your CT scan to create your radiation plan. The medical physicist and dosimetrist will then work in creating the best plan to achieve this goal. They may have to redo it several times until they are satisfied with the results and your physician approves it. Once the plan is approved, your physicist will run a quality check to make sure your plan is deliverable and safe.

There is a different level of urgency in starting a radiation treatment. Some treatments need to be started immediately; others can be safely postponed for weeks. We strive to start treatment within a week of simulation but it could take up to 2 weeks.

Planning your radiation is a meticulous process. Radiation is a powerful treatment and must be accurate and safe. Starting you on the right treatment is more important than starting your treatment right away.

Once the treatment planning is completed you will get a call to proceed with filming. Once the filming process is done, you will usually start your treatment in 1-2 days.

Sanford Location

2200 West 1st Street
Sanford, FL 32771

Orlando Location

52 West Gore Street
Orlando, FL 32806