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Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital houses an Elekta Versa HD. This machine (called a linear accelerator) will allow Wheat Ridge to offer the most innovative radiotherapy options. These advanced treatments include Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), Volumetric arc therapy (VMAT), Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) [also termed stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT), Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) or stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)], and electron beam therapy.
Importantly, the Elekta Versa HD is extremely versatile. In some instances, linear accelerators can be overly “techy”. The requirement by some linear accelerators to use advanced technology can inhibit delivery of more basic radiation plans and can subsequently prevent delivery of the optimal plan for the patient. Not every radiation plan requires contemporary technology. In some instances, advanced radiation plans are unnecessary. Further, some advanced plans may not be in patient’s best interest. The ability to provide elemental radiation plans means a broader range of diseases can be treated, treatments can be scheduled more quickly, and in some instances, financial commitment can be substantially reduced.
The term radiation therapy is referencing the use of directed energy (i.e. radiation) to kill cancer cells. Therapeutic radiation is specifying that the radiation is being used in treatment rather than diagnostics. Radiation can be in the form of particles (electrons, protons, alpha particles, carbon nuclei) or waves/packets of energy (X rays, gamma rays). The radiation most frequently used to treat tumors in dogs and cats is photon radiation. The properties of photon radiation used for cancer treatment are very similar to the properties of radiation used to create a diagnostic image (for example, and x-ray to evaluate a broken bone). However, therapeutic radiation is much higher energy, which means different tissue penetration and damage.
Learn more about Elekta and the Elekta Versa HD
A patient is placed on a table and the radiation is delivered to the patient from a distance. The distance is usually about 2-3 feet, depending on the size of the patient and area of body being treated. The radiation is often delivered to the patient, from multiple beams, incoming from many directions. In veterinary medicine, patients are anesthetized for treatment to ensure they remain very still during beam delivery.
Like surgery, radiation is most often a local therapeutic. Meaning it is used to treat a body part specifically affected by a cancerous mass. Most often, radiation is used when surgery is not an option or if complete surgical removal cannot be achieved. Surgery is almost always considered first line therapy when a patient develops a cancerous mass. But surgery is not always possible, or advisable because of invasiveness. Anytime surgery is being considered for cancer treatment, we should be asking: “Is radiation a better alternative? Or will radiation be necessary following this surgery?”
Different than surgery, radiation can also be used as an adjunct to chemotherapy to treat some systemic cancers, like lymphoma.
Further, in low doses, radiation is a very potent anti-inflammatory. Radiation can be used to treat non-cancerous inflammatory processes that are refractory to medications and surgical intervention. This can include severe osteoarthritis, severe chronic rhinitis, granulomatous meningo-encephalomyelitis, and recurrent sialoceles.
Radiation is the delivery of X rays, localized to a body part with intent to target a tumor or region specifically. Chemotherapy is delivery of a drug which can disperse throughout the body. Often chemotherapy is used in tumors with a high potential of spread. A major difference between these two are that chemotherapy targets the whole body while radiation is more localized to a specific tumor site.
Radiation acts primarily by disrupting cellular DNA. The disruption leads to impaired cell division and results in tumor cell death or quiescence.
The side effects of radiation are extremely variable. The side effect profile depends on the treatment elected and the body part being treated.
Radiation has a pretty bad reputation because of many people’s direct or indirect experience with “radiation burn”. It’s important to understand that radiation is not always painful, and in many instances, radiation can help improve cancer pain. It all depends on owner goals. Are we treating to achieve longevity? Are we treating solely for quality of life? Or are we trying to achieve a middle ground? There are a variety of protocols available and they can often be somewhat tailored to an individual patient and owner goals.
- Brain tumors
- Pituitary tumors
- Nerve sheath tumors (trigeminal)
- Nasal tumors
- Mast cell tumors
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- Bone and joint tumors
- Anal sac tumors
- Lung tumors
- Injection site sarcoma
- Oral tumors
- Liver tumors
- Thyroid tumors
- Bladder/prostate tumors
- Osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma (any bone associated tumors)
- Perianal tumors
- Oral masses
- Mast cell tumor
- Thyroid tumors
- Solitary lung tumors
- Heart base tumors
- Carotid body tumors
- Adrenal Tumors
SUBMIT A REFERRAL:
Veterinary Radiation Oncologist
Consulting Medical Physicist
David J Powers, MS, DABR
Elekta Versa HD