Steward Centers for Cancer CareCancer CareRadiation Oncology

Radiation Oncology - Clinical Services

Steward® Radiation Oncology Boston What is radiation oncology?

Radiation oncology uses high-energy, penetrating radiation to destroy cancer cells. The goal is to eliminate or shrink localized cancers (cancers that have not spread to other parts of the body) by killing as many cancer cells as possible, while maintaining minimal damage to healthy tissue. Radiation may be used alone, or in conjunction with surgery and/or chemotherapy. It may also be used to relieve pain and other symptoms associated with some kinds of cancers.

Steward® Centers for Cancer Care offer the following techniques in radiation therapy:

Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)

Before a patient's therapy can begin, a team of radiation physicists works with the physicians to develop a treatment plan. This plan is a complex set of instructions which is given to the linear accelerator (the radiation producing machine). It is designed to direct radiation to the cancerous cells while simultaneously protecting healthy tissues and organs.

A three-dimensional image of the tumor is made and used to program the radiation beams to "conform" to the shape of the tumor. Higher doses of radiation can be used because the normal tissues surrounding the tumor are largely avoided. The 3D-CRT method permits the treatment of tumors that might be considered too close to vital organs. This plan is then carried out with great precision each day of the patient's treatment.  

External beam radiationSteward Cancer Center Advanced Technology

External beam radiation therapy uses a machine called a linear accelerator to deliver radiation from outside the body to the area inside the body affected by cancer. External beam radiation therapy is usually given in daily outpatient treatment sessions over the course of several weeks.

  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) allows doctors to customize the radiation dose by varying the amount of radiation given to different parts of the treatment area. This is done in highly accurate, three-dimensional detail, according to the shape, size, and location of the tumor, and helps minimize radiation exposure to normal surrounding organs. It is used in the treatment of cancers of the brain, head and neck, lung, pelvic region, and other sites.
  • Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) is a highly sophisticated technology used to treat tumors in organs that move when you breathe, like the lung or liver. The technology allows the radiation oncologist to monitor the exact tumor location and adjust for changes during treatment, minimizing radiation exposure to healthy tissues.


Our radiation oncologists are highly skilled in brachytherapy. They have undergone advanced training and work closely with medical physicists, oncology nurses, radiation therapists and other members of the radiation oncology team to provide safe, optimal care.

  • High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy can deliver high doses of radiation in a short time (approximately ten minutes) with minimal risk to nearby organs. A computer-controlled tiny radioactive source is placed inside the body near the site of the cancer. CT scanning is used to plan a safe and accurate treatment. This technique is most commonly used for cancers of the head and neck, breast, uterus, thyroid, cervix, and prostate.
  • Radioactive prostate seed implant therapy allows radiation oncologists, in partnership with urologists, to place 50 to 100 seeds (each smaller than a grain of rice) inside the cancerous area of the prostate, which eliminates major surgery. The procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis under spinal or general anesthesia, and most patients resume normal activity within a few days.

Stereotactic Radio Therapy

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is an advanced, non-invasive cancer treatment that uses a single high dose of external radiation that conforms exactly to a tumor or lesion. It differs from other external radiation therapy in that it is administered in one large dose, rather than multiple smaller doses over a period of days or weeks. Designed to treat brain, neurological and other medically inoperable tumors, stereotactic radiosurgery is especially valuable for its precision, speed, flexibility, and patient friendliness. SRS does not require anesthesia or invasive surgery.

Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) uses the same principles as stereotactic radiosurgery for the brain, but on other areas of the body. Using advanced radiation-delivery equipment combined with imaging technology, the tumor can be monitored at all times during treatment, and high doses of radiation can be delivered with pinpoint accuracy. SBRT can be used to treat certain types of lung tumors that cannot be removed safely with surgery, and it is also highly effective on tumors in the liver and spine.

Click on a link below to view which radiation oncology services are offered at the Steward Center for Cancer Care nearest you:

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