Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Program

Radiation Medicine Program

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery | Radiation Medicine Program

Based at Princess Margaret Hospital, the Radiation Medicine Program is the largest of its kind in North America. Specialized doctors and medical staff treat more than 6,500 new patients each year using state-of-the-art equipment.

For more information, visit the RMP Web site.

Working together to improve patient care through research and education
Radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, radiation physicists and oncology nurses work together to provide the highest quality care for patients, including consultation, the development of a treatment plan, and the treatment itself as well as post treatment assessment, monitoring and follow-up.

In addition to their clinical roles, our team members also actively contribute to research and education. We have a comprehensive education program for patients and families and we work in collaboration with the University of Toronto and other institutions to train health-care professionals.

What is radiation oncology?
When radiation treatment is considered to be of value, a patient is referred for a radiation oncology consultation. A radiation oncology consultation involves meeting with a radiation oncologist, a cancer specialist who uses radiation treatments to treat cancer. To assess a need for radiation treatment, a series of diagnostic tests may be recommended to help doctors understand the type and the extent of cancer a patient has. Test results help radiation oncologists decide if a patient should be treated by radiation therapy. Radiation treatment can be used alone or in combination with other cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and surgery.

Radiation treatment may be applied externally from a machine similar to an X-ray machine. This is called "external beam" radiation therapy. In some cases, radiation may be applied internally through insertion of radioactive sources or seeds. This form of radiation therapy is called "brachytherapy."

If a decision is made to give radiation treatments, a radiation oncologist will prescribe and arrange for radiation treatment planning. The radiation planning may involve construction of a special device to immobilize the part of the body that is to be treated with either a mask or cast. Radiation therapists, a medical physicist and radiation oncologist use a CT scan or X-ray image taken in the treatment position to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Radiation oncologists prescribe, plan and monitor radiation therapy treatment. During the course of treatment, radiation oncologists follow patients’ progress, meeting with them on a regular basis to help them cope with any side effects they may be experiencing. At the end of the course of radiation treatment, radiation oncologists assess the result of treatment and recommend on-going monitoring.

What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy involves using high-energy radiation beams in a finely-focused way. These beams are strong enough to damage or kill cancer cells and stop them from dividing and spreading. Radiation therapy is often used to treat or cure cancer or it can be used to provide relief from symptoms (in cancers that have spread to other parts of the body).

Each treatment session takes approximately 15 minutes and a course of treatment is usually given every week day, Monday through Friday. This may be repeated over several weeks, depending on how many treatment sessions are needed in a particular patient’s case.

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