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Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy plays a key role in the treatment of lung cancer at Johns Hopkins. In addition to being used to shrink tumors so they can be surgically removed, stereotactic radiation can be given as an alternative to surgery in some patients. 

Specialists in treating lung cancer

Ensuring that each patient receives radiation therapy with skill and precision is the job of the radiation oncologist. Radiation oncologists at Johns Hopkins work with thousands of patients each year, hundreds of whom have lung cancer.

The radiation oncologists who work with lung cancer patients specialize in treating lung cancer and have in-depth knowledge of the types of lung cancer and how best to treat each patient, based on that patient’s diagnosis, prognosis, situation, and needs. They can rely on the latest and most advanced technology and the most recent findings from researchers at Hopkins and around the world.

They examine each patient’s case, working with other lung cancer specialists, to create a radiation plan. Because every person is different, the use of radiation therapy requires an understanding of the delicate balance between normal tissue and the various types of lung cancers.

It is this specialization that Johns Hopkins offers that makes it worthwhile for hundreds of lung cancer patients to be treated here rather than at centers closer to home, where treatment may be generalized.

Safe and effective treatment

Lung cancers are commonly treated with three types of radiation therapies:

  • Brachytherapy is a targeted high-dose radiation treatment that can be delivered via radioactive "seeds" or wires that are placed directly in or near the tumor or via an applicator device placed at the tumor site. In lung cancer, a tumor can narrow airways, causing symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath. Our specialists can treat airway disease with small radioactive sources that destroy the cancer from the inside. The radiation source is removed from the airway before the patient leaves so that treatment is safe and effective.
  • External beam radiation includes 3D conformal radiation therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT).
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) delivers targeted radiation at high doses, targeting tumors while sparing nearby organs and tissue. SBRT includes Cyberknife radiation therapy, which uses a robotic arm to deliver radiation in a number of different ways and at and at different angles.

Radiation therapy destroys cancerous tissue, but it is important to keep it from affecting nearby healthy tissue as well. Because our radiation oncologists specialize not only in radiation therapy but also in using it to treat lung cancer, they create plans that maximize the appropriate radiation dose while staying within parameters that protect normal tissues.

The Department of Radiation Oncology created a comprehensive safety program, unique to Johns Hopkins that employs the equipment and treatment quality assurance protocols required by the industry and the State of Maryland. The department also integrates innovative safety techniques developed at Johns Hopkins such as checklists, time-out procedures, case reviews, and other steps that ensure the highest possible level of safety.

For an appointment and answers to your questions

As a leading treatment center for lung cancer, Johns Hopkins offers its patients personalized care, specialized treatment, and pioneering therapies to extend life.

To make an appointment or if you have questions, call 410-955-LUNG (5864).


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