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Radiation Therapy Glossary

These definitions are provided to help patients and family members understand terms used in relation to radiation therapy. If a term is not defined, please ask the doctor or a staff member for an explanation.

Amifostine
Amifostine is a drug given when radiation therapy is delivered to the head and neck. Radiation therapy to these areas can cause xerostomia (chronic and severe dry mouth). Patients having xerostomia are at an increased risk of infections of the mouth, cavities and tooth loss, and often have difficulty chewing, swallowing and speaking. Amifostine has been shown to reduce these unwanted side effects. Amifostine is given by an injection into the patient's vein. The most common side effect of amifostine is low blood pressure which usually lasts about six minutes. The patient's blood pressure will be checked before, during and after injection.
Anemia
Too few red blood cells resulting in not enough oxygen to tissues and organs.
Anesthetic
Medication that helps to reduce or prevent pain.
Antiemetic
Medicine that prevents or stops nausea and vomiting.
Asthenia
Lack or loss of strength and energy, weakness.
Benign
Something that does not metastasize (spread) and can be cured by treatment or removal.
Biopsy
Removal of an organ or tissue to determine if there is disease or cancer present.
Bolus
Material used to simulate body tissue. When placed over the area receiving radiation therapy treatment it will reduce the penetration depth of the radiation beam, bringing it closer to the surface of the patient's skin.
Brachytherapy
Radiation therapy that involves the placement of a radioactive source into the tumor using catheters, seeds or capsules; placing special applicators inside a body cavity; placing special applicators into a passageway; placing sealed source in or against a tumor; injecting radioactive substance into the bloodstream or body cavity.
Cancer
Used to describe many types of diseases involving an abnormal cell growth or division. Lumps, masses, and tumors are the result of this abnormal cell growth.
Chemotherapy
Treatment of disease using chemicals that selectively destroy cancerous tissue.
Dermatitis
Inflammation of the skin.
Dietitian
Person with special training in nutrition.
Dosimetrist
Person trained to calculate radiation therapy doses.
Electron Beam
Form of radiation therapy using electrons. Does not penetrate as deep into the body as gamma rays (most common form of radiation therapy).
Electrons
Negatively charged particles used for brachytherapy or external beam radiation therapy.
Emesis
Vomiting.
Fluid Retention
Swelling caused.
Fractionation
Dividing the prescribed radiation dose into the number of treatments necessary to reach the prescription.
Gamma Rays
Form of radiation used in external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy.
High Dose Rate Brachytherapy (HDR)
Brachytherapy in which the radioactive source emits a high dose of radiation to the area and is removed after the prescribed dose of radiation is received by the patient.
Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)
Radiation therapy machine which allows the patient to be imaged during the actual time of radiation therapy treatment.
Immobilization Device
Device used to help insure the patient is treated in the same position and location each radiation treatment. Examples would be mask (used to keep the head in the same position) and vac-fix (bag that is molded around the patient or body part).
Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
Form of radiation therapy that allows radiation beams of various strengths and shape to be delivered from several angles.
Interstitial Radiation Therapy
High dose rate brachytherapy done by placing an implant or source into the tumor.
Intracavitary Radiation Therapy
High dose rate brachytherapy using special applicators placed inside a body cavity.
Intraluminal Radiation Therapy
High dose rate brachytherapy using special applicators placed into a passageway.
Intraoperative Radiation Therapy
Form of radiation therapy given during an operation.
Iodine (Radioactive)
Radioactive isotope used in prostate brachytherapy.
Iridium
Radioactive isotope used in High Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy.
Linear Accelerator
Radiation therapy machine that produces electron or gamma radiation.
Mammosite®
Catheter (tube) inserted into the tumor bed (area where tumor was removed) of the breast allowing high dose of radiation to be given to the area needing it most.
Medical Oncologist
Doctor specially trained to treat cancer with chemotherapy.
Metastasis
Spread of cancer to another site in the body.
Nurse
Person specially trained to care for the patient.
Oncologist
Doctor specially trained to treat cancer.
Palliation
Using therapy for pain relief.
Physicist
Person specially trained to ensure the patient receives the prescribed amount of radiation.
Port Film
X-ray film taken to verify patient position and treatment field.
Portal
Treatment field.
Prostate Brachytherapy
Internal radiation to the prostate gland commonly referred to as "prostate seeds".
Quality of Life
Emotional, social and physical wellbeing and the ability to function in day to day living.
Radiation Oncologist
Doctor specially trained to treat cancer with radiation.
Radiation Therapist
Person specially trained to give radiation therapy.
Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)
Use of high doses of radiation to stop or slow the spread of cancer or to help control pain due to cancer.
Radioprotector
Substance used to protect cells from radiation.
Radiosensitizer
Substance used to increase the effect of radiation on cells.
Reconstructive Surgery
Plastic surgery that restores the shape of an area.
Samarium
Radioactive liquid used to provide relief from the severe and debilitating pain of bone metastases (spread of cancer to the bones).
Simulation
Process of locating area to be treated and marking the patient's body to allow the radiation therapist to recreate the patient's position for radiation therapy.
Simulator
X-ray machine set up to simulate the radiation treatment machine.
Social Worker
Person specially trained to help individuals, families, and communities with their personal and social problems.
Surface Brachytherapy
High dose rate brachytherapy using a sealed source of radiation placed in or against the tumor.
Target Volume
Area of the body meant to receive radiation therapy.
Three Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy (3DCRT)
Uses computer simulation of tumor and surrounding areas to allow radiation beam to be shaped exactly to the tumor and spare normal surrounding tissues.
Treatment Field
Area receiving radiation therapy.
Ultrasound
Using sound waves to create an image of the body.
Ultrasound Guided Prostate Radiation Therapy
Use of ultrasound waves to pinpoint the location of the prostate gland daily within the body.
Unsealed Internal High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy
Injecting radioactive substance into the bloodstream or body cavity.
Vac-Fix
Bag that can be molded around a patient or body part to help ensure the treatment position is the same each time radiation therapy is given.
Xerostomia
Chronic and severe dry mouth.

 

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