What is radiotherapy?
Radiotherapy aims to use ionising radiation to destroy malignant cells.
According to the positioning of the radiation source, there is a distinction between:
- External beam radiotherapy: the rays are emitted from a particle accelerator (photons, electrons, protons). There is a range of apparatus types, meaning that various irradiation techniques are available: intensity-modulated radiation therapy, tomotherapy, stereotaxis (Novalis®), etc.
- Brachytherapy: the radiation source is implanted in the patient in contact with the tumour. This technique is only used for tumours in certain parts of the body: breast, uterus, vagina, prostate, penis, tongue, soft palate, skin, bronchi, oesophagus and anus.
Sole treatment or combined therapy
Several factors determine the choice of the type and technique of radiotherapy to be employed, the dose to be administered and the required number of sessions (tumour type, localisation and extent; the patient’s past medical and surgical history; etc.). Continuing advances in radiotherapy mean that we are always improving in terms of targeting the radiation in the area of the tumour while sparing healthy tissue as much as possible. We are, therefore, able to increase the dose so as to improve treatment effectiveness.
Depending on the treatment protocol decided in a multidisciplinary cancer meeting at Gustave Roussy or in another hospital, radiotherapy may be advised as the sole treatment or in combination with chemotherapy or hormone therapy. It may be administered before surgery to reduce tumour size or given after surgery.
Gustave Roussy has major radiotherapy technical facilities which are constantly developing. At present, there are eight external beam radiotherapy machines and ten for brachytherapy.