BMC’s Yawkey building doors are now closed as an entrance as part of our ongoing efforts to enhance our campus and provide you with the best clinical care.

All patients and visitors on our main campus must enter our hospital via Shapiro, Menino, or Moakley buildings, where they will be greeted by team members at a new centralized check-in desk before continuing to the hospital. We are excited to welcome you and appreciate your patience as we improve our facilities.

Radiation uses special equipment to deliver high-energy particles, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams or protons, to kill or damage cancer cells. Radiation (also called radiotherapy, irradiation, or x-ray therapy) can be delivered internally through seed implantation or externally using linear accelerators (called external beam radiotherapy, or EBRT). Radiation may be used as a solitary treatment to cure the tumor or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy. The equipment used to deliver the radiation therapy is called a linear accelerator. The linear accelerator has a moveable arm, which enables the radiation to be focused on the part of your body where the cancer is located. Developments in EBRT equipment have enabled physicians to offer conformal radiation. With conformal radiation, computer software uses imaging scans to map the cancer three-dimensionally. The radiation beams are then shaped to conform, or match, the shape of the tumor. Radiation works by breaking a portion of the DNA of a cancer cell, which prevents it from dividing and growing. Radiation therapy can be systemic, meaning it moves throughout your bloodstream. Systemic therapies are usually given as an injection into a blood vessel or are taken as a pill. Systemic treatments expose your entire body to cancer-fighting medication. Radiation therapy is typically given as a "local" treatment however, meaning it affects only the part of the body that needs therapy.

Possible side effects include

  • Swelling in the treated area
  • Redness or irritation in the skin over the treated area
  • Tiredness
  • Hardness in the treated area

Many of the skin changes associated with external beam radiation therapy improve within the first few months of therapy. Patients are examined and followed to make sure everything is improving as expected.

External beam radiation therapy is one of the most common types of radiation for cancer treatment. Radiation comes from a machine outside the body and delivers radiation to a specific location inside the body.

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is usually administered in the radiation oncology department five days a week (Monday through Friday) for five to six weeks, though some newer methods have cut down treatment time to a few weeks or less.

If radiation is recommended, the patient will return for a planning session called a simulation where a CT scan will be obtained in the treatment position so a plan can be devised based on the patient’s anatomy.

Each treatment session is painless and generally lasts under 10 to 15 minutes.