Advancements in radiation therapy mean better outcomes for cancer patients

December 01, 2012
Nilam S. Ramsinghani, MD, Radiation Oncologist

Radiation therapy has come a long way in recent years, both in success rates and patient comfort, says Dr. Nilam S. Ramsinghani, who leads UCI Health radiation oncology program.

“People may not realize how far radiation therapy has evolved over the past 20 years. “When I started out, we had one machine and no simulators," she explains. "We used to treat so much more of the normal tissue. Now, we can target the tumor much better than ever before, which means that the treatment can be delivered in a more concentrated dose to the cancer.”

As the first medical center in Orange County with the RapidArc radiation therapy system, UC Irvine specialists do in a few minutes what used to take a half hour or longer to complete—and with ever greater precision.

Faster treatment is an advantage to patients because it takes their movements out of the equation, allowing the radiation beam to pinpoint only the three-dimensional contours of the tumor.

“It is difficult to hold still for half an hour,” Ramsinghani says. “If the patient moves, normal tissue can be affected by the radiation. The patient can have more side effects and more complications.”

Dramatically reduced treatment time is no small matter for patients who must come in for daily treatments over the course of several weeks.

Ramsinghani sometimes encounters worried patients who may have notions about radiation therapy dating back to the mid 1980s, when she joined the UC Irvine School of Medicine faculty and the UCI Health clinical team.

By delivering the radiation only to the tumor cells, Ramsinghani says, patients experience fewer side effects and fewer long term problems with function.

“Their quality of life is so much better than it used to be after treatment,” she adds. “Patients who are fighting cancer today can consider radiation therapy a very positive asset in their health care. And I believe that some of the best treatment is available here at UC Irvine Medical Center.”

Learn more about Dr. Ramsinghani ›

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