Come visit Fort Smith Radiation Oncology at the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce Business Expo 2012 held at the Phoenix Expo Center. Dr. Kris Gast and her staff will be visiting with the public from 8:30am to 3pm. FSRO is located at Booth #57 at the Expo. The Expo is featuring over 80 booths with lots of great information and giveaways to the attendees. Door prizes are also going to be drawn throughout the day and admission is FREE. We hope to see you there!!
March 30th ~ Make plans now to attend the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce’s Business Expo 2012 at Phoenix Expo Trade & Event Center. Fort Smith Radiation Oncology will be hosting a booth at the event. The booths open after the First Friday Breakfast and stay open until 3pm. Fort Smith Radiation Oncology will be passing out cancer information packets and handing out goodies to all the attendees. FREE admission. Hope to see you there!
April 5th ~ We are very excited to announce that Dr. Kris Gast will be the guest speaker at the Lunch and Learn at the Donald W. Reynolds Cancer Support House. Dr. Gast’s topic will be “Cancer Survivorship”
The therapists move in and out of the room, adjusting the parameters on the machine, adjusting your placement on the table. Then one whispers in your ear, “Hold real still, we’re going to start your treatment now.”
The therapists scurry from the room like rats abandoning ship. The vault size door sighs shut; and the beam turns on, humming away. You realize you don’t even know what radiation is or what kind you are getting.
Then you think, “I wouldn’t know what the difference is anyway.”
Well let’s just fix that.
There are several, shall we call them flavors, of radiation, but they all have one thing in common: They deliver energy, lots and lots of energy.
The most common and widely used is called photons. This is the radiation generated by linear accelerators. Linear accelerators are in every radiation department across the country and around the world. Linear accelerators produce photons electrically, which means when the machine is “on,” it is producing photons, and when it is “off,” there is essentially no radiation produced.
Photons are thought to pass through the body in wave form. They can be used to treat cancers on the surface or deep within the body.
Linear accelerators can also produce electrons, which are particles or packets of radiation. These packets are used to treat superficial cancers because they do not travel very far in tissue.
Next, we have protons. There has been a lot of hype lately about protons. Protons have actually been around, well, forever, but actually in use treating patients since 1961.
Protons are produced by a cyclotron, which initially required a huge amount of space as well as capital. Units today are smaller but still pricey, in the $10 million to $15 million range.
Protons also travel through the tissue like packets of energy, but they tend to deposit a burst of energy at a certain depth in the tissue based on the proton’s initial strength.
Radiation also can be delivered by “sources,” such as cesium or radium. This is called brachytherapy, Latin for short distance.
Radioactive sources were the first place that scientist found radiation in the late 1890s. The first physician treated a patient’s cancer with radiation in 1896.
Sources are simple-enough-looking pieces of metal that emit radiation. Sometimes the pellet-shaped container houses a gas that is radioactive, sometimes it is just solid. The radiation that comes out of these sources can be either wave-like, gamma rays or particle-like electrons.
Radioactive substances also can be injected into the blood stream, flowing through the body to the cancer site.
So, if all of these different flavors of radiation have been around and in use from 116 years to 60 years, what makes radiation today better than it was in 1896 or 1976?
The radiation has not changed; it is the treatment-planning systems that have evolved. The planning computers we have today allow your radiation oncologist and certified medical dosimetrist to design treatment fields to fit your anatomy and the anatomy of your tumor. They are able to use all of your X-rays to customize your treatment.
Today, the radiation is more exact and accurate because the work of your radiation oncologist, the medical dosimetrist, the physicist and the specially trained radiation therapists. The most complex plan in the computer has to be reproducible daily with the patient on the table. Your radiation therapists have to be well-trained, unhurried and focused to deliver the most accurate plan. After all, machines don’t actually give the treatment — except, of course, in the movies.
DR. KRIS GAST IS A BOARD CERTIFIED RADIATION ONCOLOGIST. SHE HAS BEEN IN PRACTICE FOR 21 YEARS, THE LAST 13 AT FORT SMITH RADIATION ONCOLOGY IN FORT SMITH. HER COLUMN, CANCER DEMYSTIFIED, APPEARS THE FIRST WEDNESDAY OF EVERY MONTH IN THE TIMES RECORD. SEND QUESTIONS TO BFITZPATRICK@FSRO.NET OR CANCER DEMYSTIFIED, PO BOX 5710, FORT SMITH, AR 72913-5710,.