Tag Archive for Radiation

Can Dental X-Rays Increase Cancer Risk?

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When it comes time for x-rays at the dentist, the technician or hygienist always covers the patient with a lead apron before leaving the room. This precaution often sparks the question as to whether the radiation from dental x-rays can increase the risk of cancer.

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Dr. Jay Harris discusses the link between radiation therapy for breast cancer and heart disease

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By Robert Levy

In a recent study, Oxford University researchers reported that although radiation therapy is a critical tool for the treatment of women with breast cancer, it can also raise their risk of a heart attack or heart disease later in life. The study was based on a review of medical records of 2,168 women in Sweden and Denmark who received radiation therapy for breast cancer between 1958 and 2001, and who were under age 70 at the time.

News coverage of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has drawn new attention to the heart risks associated with radiation therapy even as it underscores such therapy’s role in improving survival rates for breast cancer patients.

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Proton Therapy No Better Than Traditional Therapy for Prostate Cancer Patients

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When it comes to treating prostate cancer, proton radiotherapy (PRT) is no better than traditional intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), according to a new study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Friday.

PRT is an advanced but expensive treatment option for some prostate cancer patients. However, the researchers found that the therapy offers no added treatment benefit than the standard therapy. The article concluded: “Although PRT is substantially more costly than IMRT, there was no difference in toxicity in a comprehensive cohort of Medicare beneficiaries with prostate cancer at 12 months post-treatment.”

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A focus on patient safety during radiation

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March 4-10 is Patient Safety Awareness Week; at Dana-Farber, patient safety is at the top of our list 365 days a year. Here, we focus on one aspect of cancer treatment in which it’s especially important: radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy is common – about two-thirds of all cancer patients can expect it to be included in their care. And while radiation therapy has been used for 100 years, it’s understandable that the prospect might make you anxious, particularly with regard to safety concerns.

As with all aspects of cancer treatment at Dana-Farber, patient safety is at the core of radiation oncology. It needs to be: We’re highly aware of the fact that once given, radiation cannot be taken back.

Radiation is delivered by linear accelerators, or LINACs. Teams of physicists and therapists put each machine through a regular schedule of performance tests – daily, monthly, and annually. Each also has built-in redundancies: If a LINAC machine is not performing to specifications, it will not deliver radiation.

But obviously we don’t leave everything to machines to ensure patient safety. Our team of physicians, physicists, and radiation therapists works closely together to plan and review each patient’s treatment, and each treatment calculation is checked and double-checked before being delivered to a patient.

Other checks can range from the seemingly mundane — we use photo IDs and barcodes so we know we’re delivering the right treatment to the right person — to the highly technical — we take X-rays or CT scans before treatment to make sure the beams are targeting accurately — but they’re all means to the same end: to ensure the safest and most effective treatment for our patients.

As radiation treatment becomes more complex, so do our safety checks. Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) allows doctors to customize the dose by varying the amount of radiation given to different parts of the treatment area. Before any IMRT plan is delivered physicists perform “dry-runs,” that deliver and confirm the accuracy of the radiation dose, to ensure patient safety.

This focus on safety is a core value in the treatment of each patient and is a part of the very culture of the department.

Learn more about radiation safety measures at Dana-Farber.