Treatment for Sarcoma: Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is administered by our radiation oncologists who were first in the region to integrate computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) into treatment planning. As part of one of the country’s largest and most dynamic radiation oncology programs, our team offers specialization and expertise in the fields of sarcoma research and treatment.

Radiation uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells or stop them from being produced. This therapy is usually given before or following surgery to deliver radiation directly to the tumor, which decreases the dose to surrounding tissues.

We use radiation therapy for different stages of cancer to help preserve the affected limb, shrink the tumor before surgery, kill cancer cells in the margins after surgery, or decrease the risk of the tumor coming back. Radiation can also be a primary treatment for sarcoma when surgery is not recommended.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

This commonly used therapy focuses radiation beams on the cancer from a machine outside the body. Your doctor will take pictures of the tumor with a CT scan and use those pictures to develop a plan for targeting the cancer. The types of external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) used for sarcoma include:

  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): IMRT is a standard treatment given in small doses for a few weeks that uses external radiation beams of varying strengths. Fox Chase was the first in the region to use IMRT, and our physicians have the most extensive experience with this technique in the United States.
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT): The radiation targets the tumor precisely and is given in higher doses over a few visits. Fox Chase offers the CyberKnife® System, a state-of-the-art robotic radiosurgery system, as a potential option for SBRT (when applicable).
  • 3-D conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT): Small doses of radiation are administered for a few weeks with radiation beams that match the tumor’s shape.

Internal Radiation Therapy

Internal radiation therapy, also known as brachytherapy, involves placing radioactive material in or near the tumor. It delivers high-dose rate (HDR) or low-dose rate (LDR) radiation directly to the cancer site, thus reducing radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. Fox Chase was the first in the region to use real-time intraoperative planning with brachytherapy.