Docrates Cancer Center offers radiotherapy without delay, which is a significant factor affecting treatment effectivity. We use the most advanced radiotherapy technology, VMAT RapidArc. The information provided by advanced imaging studies, together with cutting-edge radiotherapy equipment, allows us to minimise the adverse effects of treatment and yet deliver a higher dose of radiation to the tumour. At Docrates Cancer Center, radiotherapy is always planned by a team consisting of a doctor, a radiologist, a radiographer and a medical physicist. We plan all treatments according to the individual wishes and special needs of our patients. For example, we aim to customise treatment schedules according to the patient’s wishes.
Approximately half of cancer patients receive curative or palliative radiotherapy at some point. (National Cancer Institute, 2010.) Advanced technology has rendered radiotherapy an important local cancer treatment alongside surgery. Planning and implementing cancer treatment using modern technology also significantly reduces the adverse effects of the treatment. At Docrates Cancer Center, we take plenty of time for discussion and answering our patients’ questions. Our nurse coordinators make sure that each patient’s treatment advances flexibly according to plan and that the patient and his or her family understand how the treatment will proceed.
Docrates Cancer Center is a pioneer in the field of radiotherapy. In planning treatment, we always consider the benefits of radiotherapy in addition to chemotherapy and surgery. In late 1999, our Chief Physician in Radiotherapy, Timo Joensuu, prepared the first IMRT (Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy) radiotherapy plan in the Nordic countries. Docrates Cancer Center was the first to introduce VMAT Rapid Arc technology in the treatment of cancer in Finland. We also offer specialised competence in interstitial HDR brachytherapy, which we were the first to introduce in prostate cancer treatment in Finland.
Docrates offers specialised radiotherapy expertise in the treatment of, for example, challenging cases, such as head and neck area cancer. The planning and implementation of radiotherapy require attention to a considerable number of details, which can be optimised in many different ways. Radiotherapy is, in fact, handwork the way surgery is.
External radiotherapy is a complex treatment, which requires dose calculation software in addition to uncompromising expertise and the actual equipment. Such software allows medical physicists to target the radiation to the tumour to a millimetre accuracy according to the precise specifications of the doctor, thus protecting the healthy tissue around the tumour. The pioneer responsible for the dose calculation software is Finnish company Dosetek, where two of the founding members of Docrates, medical physicists Pekka Aalto and Harri Puurunen, served in key positions. Dosetek quickly obtained a leading market position in Europe and was then bought by the largest radiotherapy equipment producer in the world, the American company Varian Medical Systems. At this moment, the world’s most advanced dose calculation software is being coded in Helsinki to direct the operations of Varian equipment in cancer hospitals around the world – including Docrates.
What is radiotherapy?
Based on the method of implementation, radiotherapy can be divided into external radiotherapy and intrastitial radiotherapy or brachytherapy. Both radiotherapy methods have specific benefits and uses. In external radiotherapy, radiation is usually produced with linear particle accelerators. Docrates Cancer Center has two modern linear accelerators and − our most recent development step − the first VMAT (Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy) RapidArc technology to be used in Finland, complete with a control unit that is regularly updated, so that the technology can constantly utilise the most advanced properties available in radiotherapy.
In brachytherapy, the radiation source is directly introduced into the cancer tissue, in other words into the body. At Docrates Cancer Center, we implement brachytherapy as an HDR or High Dose Rate treatment. We were the first to introduce this method in the treatment of prostate cancer in Finland.
In external radiotherapy, the patient receives the treatment in a large number of small doses (fractions) in order to minimise any adverse effects. A cycle of curative radiotherapy typically takes six to eight weeks. Treatment is administered five days per week. Each session lasts about 5−20 minutes. Post-operative adjuvant radiotherapy usually takes four to six weeks. Sometimes radiotherapy can be combined with other therapy, such as chemotherapy administered on a weekly basis. This is called chemoradiotherapy. Internal brachytherapy uses high radiation doses, which is why only a few treatment sessions are required – sometimes just one.
Radiotherapy uses high‑energy ionising radiation in the treatment of cancer. According to the objective of the treatment, radiotherapy can be divided into local, curative and palliative radiotherapy. The high-energy ionising radiation used in radiotherapy damages the vital structures of dividing cells (such as cancer cells), including DNA. Healthy cells that are not dividing are better protected from the radiation, because their DNA is packed within the cell nucleus, surrounded by proteins. The DNA strands in cancer cells attempt to divide. When they are hit by radiation, some of the cells die at once and some lose their ability to divide. The body eliminates these cells through the apoptosis mechanism.
Even though normal cells recover from radiation damage, unlike cancer cells, radiation often causes some adverse effects in tissues adjacent to the radiotherapy site. Therefore it is particularly important to target and plan the radiation so that normal tissue receives as little radiation as possible. Moreover, the radiation must hit the cancer tissue in order to help. This is why modern information technology has proved necessary in developing increasingly effective and safe radiotherapy.
Is this your first time in radiotherapy? We are happy to answer any questions you may have.
Depending on the patient’s wishes, we will explain the functioning of the radiotherapy unit to you before your first treatment session. The staff at our radiotherapy unit are prepared to answer any questions you may have related to radiotherapy.