If you are diagnosed with cancer you will likely ask, “Where is the best place for me to receive cancer treatment?” This is a question worth exploring for each patient, as there are very personal considerations when choosing your doctor and treatment team.
Most importantly, you should feel confident and comfortable with your medical team where you choose to have your cancer treatment. Here are some other factors you may consider:
- Many patients can keep working while receiving radiation treatment, so location and distance from a cancer center are important.
- Family or Friends Support. Cancer treatment can cause side effects, and having a network of family and friends to assist you is helpful.
- Medical Expertise. There are many cancer types. If you have a rare subtype of cancer, you may be recommended to seek care with a cancer doctor who specializes in that particular type of cancer.
- Care and Attention. You want a medical team who listens well, explains treatments clearly and will answer all your questions. You need to have a high level of trust with the person you are entrusting for your care.
- Insurance coverage. Your medical co-pays, insurance coverage, and overall cost to you are important when considering cancer treatment.
Specific to radiation treatment, there are some additional factors you may want to consider. Radiation therapy requires an expertly trained doctor, who is specially trained in radiation physics and radiation biology to select the ideal radiation treatment plan for you. You also want to know you are receiving the best radiation treatment possible, and important considerations include:
- Radiation planning technology
- Radiation delivery equipment
- Expert medical team and staff
- State-of-the-art facilities
At Alliance Cancer Care, we are committed to providing the absolute best in cancer care for our patients. Our group of physicians across North Alabama are board-certified radiation oncologists. We seek to provide our patients with access to the most recent innovations and technological advances in radiation oncology. We are continuously investing in our equipment, software, and training of staff to provide world-class radiation treatment for our communities across North Alabama. We provide radiation therapy in Huntsville, Decatur, and Florence, Alabama, and the surrounding communities.
You still may be wondering, “Is radiation therapy at Alliance Cancer Care the best option for me?” Below we describe the different advantages of having radiation treatment at Alliance Cancer Care vs. nearby academic centers.
Alliance Cancer Care Advantages
Radiation therapy is typically delivered daily Monday through Friday over several weeks. However, radiation treatments are fast, often taking two or three minutes to deliver your treatment. We anticipate you will be able to continue normal activities, including working, during radiation therapy. Therefore, driving a long distance for daily treatments is not feasible for many patients. With five convenient locations, we strive to provide state-of-the-art technology with the convenience of keeping you close to home during radiation treatment.
With a cancer diagnosis, you are anxious and ready to know the next steps in your care. We often schedule your initial consultation visit with your doctor within the week of referral.
Peer Review and Chart Rounds
Radiation therapy is complex and requires a team of people to ensure its precision and safety for each patient. We seek to provide radiation at the highest standards of the industry, with modern techniques and technology. To this end, we hold weekly conferences, where each patient’s radiation treatment is reviewed for quality, safety, and efficacy by our team of experts. This ensures the highest level of care for each of our patients across our network of locations.
Cancer treatment should be individualized for each patient, so we host weekly tumor boards to discuss patients in a multi-disciplinary setting. Pathologists, radiologists, surgeons, medical oncologists, and our group of radiation oncologists meet together to discuss your cancer diagnosis, stage, and treatment options to provide a group recommendation specific to your situation.
Weekly On-Treatment Visits
During radiation, you will have weekly visits with your doctor to monitor your progress through treatment and watch for any side effects of treatment. This allows our team to intervene early to minimize the side effects of treatment and improve your quality of life during radiation therapy.
Treatment Types and Technologies
Alliance Cancer Care offers treatment types and technologies on par with our nearby academic centers. At this time, Alliance Cancer Care has the following radiation treatment modalities:
- IMRT/VMAT – Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) or Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT). These are sophisticated radiation treatments using tiny beams of radiation with varying intensity to accurately sculpt radiation, giving a higher dose to the tumor and a lower dose to the surrounding organs and tissues, decreasing side effects.
- SRS/SBRT – Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) or Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). This is a radiation technique using a very high-energy beam of focused radiation to treat tumors in 1-5 treatments with minimal margin to lessen side effects.
- IGRT – Image Guided Radiation Therapy. Our machines take an image before each treatment to allow us to adjust patients’ bodies into the optimal treatment position, providing submillimeter accuracy with treatment.
- Surface Guided Radiation Therapy. We use the Varian Identify system for surface monitoring of patients before and during treatment, to help ensure the accuracy of treatment.
- Respiratory Gating – This is a technique sometimes used to deliver radiation therapy to a moving target. If a tumor has significant motion (i.e. a lung tumor), the machine can turn on or off at certain times to limit the amount of normal tissue being radiated. This extends the overall treatment time but may reduce the risk of damage to surrounding tissues or organs.
- Brachytherapy – This is a unique form of radiation therapy, often used in gynecologic cancers, where a radioactive source is placed inside or next to the area requiring treatment.
Academic Center Advantages
Major academic centers can offer multidisciplinary clinics for patients with certain diagnoses. For instance, a patient may be seen at a breast clinic, where she will meet the breast surgeon, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist during the same visit. Patients will often have their mammogram and ultrasound on the same day and meet with the breast radiologist, too. This often means that patients are at the clinic for 6-8 hours to complete the entire workup and consultation process. The advantage is patients only have a single visit to meet all their physicians and leave with a plan for their cancer treatment. This multidisciplinary visit is often only conducted at the initial consultation. Follow-up visits are in the individual physician clinics.
At Alliance Cancer Care, we coordinate your cancer care by participating in tumor boards, reviewing and sending records to your other cancer doctors, and discussing any urgent matters with your doctors via telephone.
Academic centers are critical for clinical trial development and execution. Clinical trials advance medical treatment, particularly in the field of oncology. Patients with rare types of cancer, recurrent cancer, or metastatic cancer that has failed standard therapies are often ideal candidates to consider enrolling in clinical trials.
At this time, Alliance Cancer Care is not enrolling patients in clinical trials. However, we use data from prior clinical trials that are proven effective to provide our recommendations to our patients. Our team at Alliance Cancer Care is happy to help research available clinical trials and facilitate referral if you are a potential clinical trial candidate.
Knowledge is power. Now you have information about what factors to consider when choosing your cancer treatment specialists and can make that important decision to start your journey with cancer treatment.
At Alliance Cancer Care, we are committed to providing you the absolute best in cancer care, with the most recent innovations and technological advances in radiation oncology located conveniently close to home.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with cancer and would like to discuss radiation treatment with one of our expert physicians, please contact our office today.