Radiation Therapy

Targeting tumors with intense energy

Radiation Therapy at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Needham

Radiation therapy is a treatment for cancer. It uses high-energy X-rays or particles to kill cancerous cells in your body or stop them from growing and dividing. Doctors who deliver radiation treatment are called radiation oncologists.

The goal of radiation therapy is to attack your tumor while sparing healthy tissue surrounding it. Your doctor will meet with you to determine the best approach for your individualized care. Then, our caring radiation oncology team will work together to provide your treatment. Your safety and comfort are top priorities throughout treatment.

Types of Radiation Therapy We Offer

At BID Needham we offer both external beam radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy.
External Beam Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy comes from outside your body. We use a machine called a linear accelerator, or LINAC, to deliver the radiation beams. Our state-of-the-art Varian TruBeam LINAC is located in the Lank Cancer Center. It allows you to receive advanced radiation therapy services, including intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT).


IMRT helps us deliver radiation that conforms to the three-dimensional shape of your tumor. It makes it possible to target high radiation doses to your cancer while minimizing exposure to other areas of your body.


IGRT uses medical imaging to precisely locate your tumor before each radiation treatment. It’s especially helpful in treating cancer in critical areas of the body. 

Internal Radiation Therapy

Internal radiation therapy is also known as brachytherapy. It involves delivering a radiation source directly into, or nearby, your tumor. The radiation source usually is sealed in a small holder called an implant. We may leave the implant in place temporarily or permanently. If left permanently, over time it will stop releasing radiation.

CyberKnife Stereotactic Radiosurgery at BIDMC

In some cases, you may benefit from CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery. This option is available at BIDMC, the first and most experienced center in New England to offer CyberKnife.

CyperKnife is a noninvasive procedure that allows us to treat certain cancers without an incision. It uses real-time, image-guided robotic technology to continually track your body’s movements. This helps doctors confirm the exact location of your tumor before they deliver radiation to that location. It’s especially helpful for treating hard-to-reach tumors and tumors that move when you breathe, such as lung tumors.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Is Radiation Therapy Used?

Your doctor may recommend radiation therapy to eliminate any signs of cancer in your body, to stop cancer growth or slow it down or to keep cancer from returning. In some cases, it also may reduce cancer symptoms.

When Do You Get Radiation Therapy?

When you receive radiation therapy depends on your unique needs. Giving it before surgery or chemotherapy, for example, may shrink your tumor and help these other treatments work better. Giving radiation therapy after other treatments may help destroy any cancer cells that remain even if they’re not visible. Your doctor will make recommendations based on your specific cancer.

Is Radiation Therapy Painful?

When you receive treatment, it doesn’t hurt. However, side effects that radiation therapy may cause can lead to discomfort. We do all we can to minimize your side effects.

What Are the Side Effects of Radiation Treatment?

Our goal is to minimize radiation exposure to healthy tissue. But sometimes radiation can damage healthy cells located near your cancer. Depending on the part of your body doctors are treating, this can result in side effects such as skin changes, fatigue, diarrhea, swallowing problems or hair loss in the treatment area.

Side effects may be different for everyone. Most of them go away after your treatment ends. Sometimes, however, they don’t develop until later. Your radiation oncology team will talk to you about potential side effects and how to manage them.

How Often Will I Receive Treatment?

Treatment schedules vary. In many cases, people receive radiation therapy once a day, five days a week for several weeks. In other cases, people may get treatment more than once a day. Some patients may get larger doses for a shorter period of time.

Your doctor will help you decide which treatment schedule is best for you.

Types of Cancer We Treat

We treat a wide variety of cancers. No matter your type, know that you’re in good hands with us.
  • Blood & bone marrow cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Gynecologic cancer
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Lung & thoracic cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Spleen cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Urologic cancer

Services & Specialties

Your cancer care team works with other specialists throughout BID Needham to ensure continuity of care for all your needs.

Make an Appointment

To speak with a member of our cancer care team, please call.