At Mayo Clinic, radiation oncologists work with doctors in other specialties to design a treatment plan that is best for you. In procedures that involve radiation, specialists carefully monitor doses to avoid the risk of radiation overexposure.

Treatment may combine radiation with surgery and chemotherapy. Mayo Clinic offers state-of-the-art radiation therapy, which may include:

  • Brachytherapy. Also called internal radiation therapy, brachytherapy (brak-e-THER-uh-pee) involves placing radioactive implants (such as seeds or wires) in or near the tumor site to deliver localized radiation and destroy the cancer. For example, in permanent prostate brachytherapy, doctors implant small radioactive seeds near cancerous tissue in the prostate. To kill cancer cells, the seeds are left in place permanently to give off a low dose of radiation that is used up over several weeks or months. In temporary implants, the radioactive material is placed into the tumor for just a few minutes. This treatment (high dose rate brachytherapy) is typically repeated a number of times over a few days.
  • 3-D conformal radiation therapy (3-D CRT). In this type of treatment, a computer is used to create a 3-D picture of the tumor to conform or match the radiation beam to the shape of the tumor. Many radiation beams are aimed at the tumor from different angles, sparing normal tissue as much as possible.
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). IMRT is an advanced type of 3-D radiation that conforms to the shape of a tumor. With IMRT, not only are beams aimed at the tumor from several directions, the intensity or strength of the beams can be adjusted to minimize the amount of radiation that reaches normal tissue.
  • Intensity-modulated arc therapy (IMAT) and volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT). IMAT and VMAT are advanced types of IMRT that use arcs of radiation therapy rather than individual beams. This shortens the time for each treatment.
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). IGRT planning begins with a computerized tomography (CT) scan and sometimes other imaging scans to help precisely direct the radiation beams to the targeted tumor tissue. The target is imaged each day before treatment to verify the correct position of the patient, target and radiation beams.
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). During the surgical procedure, after the tumor is removed, IORT delivers a concentrated beam of radiation to the tumor site while sparing normal surrounding tissue.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy. Stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic body radiotherapy use precisely focused radiation beams to treat tumors and other abnormal growths in the brain, spine, liver, lung, adrenal glands or other sites. Computers create 3-D images to guide doctors in delivering radiation to the target area with minimal exposure to nearby healthy tissue. Mayo Clinic in Minnesota uses Gamma Knife radiosurgery for treating tumors in the brain and linear accelerator (LINAC) treatment for tumors in various areas in the body.

Comprehensive care team

Mayo Clinic offers a coordinated program that includes consultation with the radiation oncologist, treatment planning and delivery, patient education, and ongoing follow-up visits.

Working together to deliver compassionate, appropriate care for your cancer, your treatment team may include:

  • Radiation oncologists who evaluate you, prescribe the radiation treatment, direct the treatment team, monitor your progress, manage any treatment side effects and may also be involved in follow-up care after treatment is completed.
  • Physicists who measure the radiation beams and provide data used to plan treatment, verify dose calculations and perform quality assurance measures.
  • Dosimetrists who use a computerized system to plan the best way to deliver radiation to the target while minimizing the dose to nearby healthy tissues.
  • Radiation therapists who give the radiation treatments prescribed by the doctor.
  • Nurse practitioners and physician assistants who assist in treatment management, coordinating your treatment and follow-up care.
  • Nurses who assist in your care and address questions and concerns you may have during treatment.