Intraoperative Radiation Therapy | Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center | Loyola Medicine

Intraoperative Radiation Therapy

Overview and Facts about Intraoperative Radiation Therapy

Intraoperative radiation therapy is a method of treating various types of cancers, including breast, brain, colorectal, gynecologic and more. Unlike normal radiation where an entire area will be treated, intraoperative radiation therapy is administered during surgery so it can directly target the cancerous area. This reduces the normal surrounding tissue from being damaged.

Because of this, your doctor can use higher doses of radiation, which can do a better job of destroying malignant cells that might be left behind after a tumor is removed.

Overall, intraoperative radiation therapy can prevent damage to healthy tissues and organs, potentially reducing your side effects. Because of the higher dose, intraoperative therapy can also remove your need for multiple treatments, potentially reducing the normal four to six-week span of traditional radiation therapy. It can also supplement other therapies and improve control of the disease.

What to Expect with Intraoperative Radiation Therapy

During intraoperative radiation therapy, you won’t feel any pain or discomfort. An anesthesiologist will administer medication to put you to sleep before the surgery begins.

Once the surgery begins, the surgeon and radiation oncologist will remove as much of the tumor as they can. Once the tumor is removed, they will use an intraoperative radiation therapy device directly in the cancerous area to apply high doses of radiation, in order to destroy any remaining cells.

After your tumor is removed, the intraoperative radiation treatment takes between five to 30 minutes.

What are the Side Effects of Intraoperative Radiation Therapy?

Luckily, there are not many side effects directly related to intraoperative radiation therapy. The biggest ones to expect are bruising in the area that was operated on and excess fluid buildup as your body continues to heal. You may be sore for a few days and may have restricted movement.

Depending on the area that was treated, you may also experience other symptoms, such as skin irritation or fatigue. Late effects of therapy will depend on the area treated and the dose utilized. Because intraoperative radiation therapy must be done through surgery, there could also be additional risks related to the surgery itself.