The Radiation Service at VSEC utilizes a Varian 2300 C/D Linear Accelerator to deliver photon (x-ray) and electron radiation therapy. This machine powers both x-rays and electrons to a higher energy than previous technology, allowing for skin and superficial tissues to be spared radiation dose for a depth of up to 1.5cm. For superficially located tumors, a spectrum of electron energies can be employed to treat the targeted cancer, while sparing underlying critical structures such as heart, lungs, and abdominal organs.
VSEC is one of the few private practice veterinary hospitals in Eastern PA that has an on-site, full-time radiation oncologist. Radiation plans created in the Pinnacle treatment software maybe be viewed by four additional radiation oncologists for case discussion and treatment plan improvement. The Radiation Oncology Service at VSEC is also complemented by two medical oncologists and three service dedicated veterinary technicians, who provide compassionate and comprehensive care for each individual patient.
With the Toshiba 64-slice CT scanners debuting in each of VSEC’s three locations, there has never been a faster way to transfer CT images than with each CT scanner’s direct link into our Pinnacle radiation planning software.
In addition to treating cancer and resolving residual cancer disease left behind in a surgical site, radiation therapy is also used for benign processes such as oral epulides, nasal polyps, and lick granulomas. Therapeutic radiation is also used to treat chronic rhinitis (nasal cavity inflammation) that is refractory to medical treatment, with control times of over 12 months. The list of cancers treatable with radiation therapy at VSEC includes soft tissue sarcoma, mast cell tumors, feline injection site sarcoma, anal sac tumors, brain tumors, pituitary gland tumors, plasmacytoma, spinal tumors. When a cure or long term tumor control is not possible, radiation therapy can be used in a palliative setting to improve quality of life and increase comfort for patients with tumors such as osteosarcoma, malignant melanoma, and inoperable dermal hemangiosarcoma.
10 things you NEED to know about radiation therapy:
- Radiation treatments do not burn – there is no thermal damage and skin is not caused to melt by radiation therapy.
- Radiation therapy can be used after surgery to treat microscopic disease left behind by surgery (i.e. when a biopsy report describes “incomplete excision”, “close excision”, or “neoplastic cells extend to margins of the submitted sample”).
- Radiation therapy can be used prior to surgery to reduce tumor size, thereby resulting in a smaller surgical field.
- Generally speaking, more curative radiation treatment plans (definitive radiation therapy) are completed using daily treatments over 3-4 weeks, while palliative radiation protocols are completed once weekly for four treatments, or within a single week. The overall radiation dose is divided into many smaller doses in order to allow normal tissues time to heal in between treatments.
- Radiation therapy is not painful; therefore, a deep plane of anesthesia which some patients are groggy from after treatment is not necessary. At VSEC, we use light, rapidly metabolized anesthetic medication that allows a patient to walk out for discharge 30-45 minutes after each radiation treatment.
- Sedation/anesthesia time for radiation therapy at VSEC is generally 15-20 minutes, where treatments may take up to 90 minutes of anesthesia per treatment elsewhere.
- For some tumors, radiation therapy can be accomplished under light sedation rather than general anesthesia.
- Like a fine dress or suit, each radiation treatment plan is tailored specifically to fit each patient’s tumor. The goal is to improve radiation dose distribution across a tumor, while sparing normal surrounding tissue.
- Depending on tumor location, a planning CT scan is not always necessary to create a radiation treatment plan (i.e. peripheral limb tumors).
- Dr. Chetney is available Monday through Friday to speak about radiation therapy on a case-specific basis with primary care veterinarians.