Radiation Oncology

For more than 30 years, Gundersen radiation oncologists have stopped or slowed cancer with high-energy x-rays generated by linear accelerators. Through ongoing efforts to improve the quality of care, Radiation Oncology offers the latest technology. These innovations offer our patients many advantages including:

  • Better cancer detection
  • More targeted treatment
  • Greater protection for healthy tissue
  • Reduced treatment time
  • Quicker recovery time
  • Hope for once inoperable cancers
  • Generally less physically taxing treatments for patients

Gundersen Radiation Oncology, a proven leader in this discipline, has been accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR) since 2002. ACR accreditation assures quality of care for physicians and patients choosing the right place for radiation therapy.

Our team ranks among the best in the country for its approach to care, emphasizing great outcomes, patient satisfaction and continuous improvement. The goal: Quality care, close to home, with fewer treatments. Our team of experts offers the following technologies:

Image-guided radiation therapy

Our image-guided radiotherapy and radiosurgery system is capable of treating complex cancers in areas such as the head and neck, lung, breast, liver and abdomen. Gundersen employs the only image-guided radiation therapy system (TrueBeam™) with ExacTrac® image guidance (BrainLab) in La Crosse County. One of its unique features, and an advantage over other radiation treatment models, is the high-intensity delivery mode. Fast delivery allows for reduced chances of tumor motion during treatment, which helps protect surrounding healthy tissues.

High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy

High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy has shortened radiation treatments for some gynecologic cancers from days to hours. With HDR, we can give higher doses of radiation during a clinic visit to get rid of cancer and reduce the chance of recurrence.


Postoperative brachytherapy for endometrial cancer – Previously, patients were admitted to the hospital for complete bed rest because they had to hold relatively still for two or three days. They were also radioactive during this period. With HDR, treatments are completed in three outpatient sessions, each lasting one to two hours. Patients can go home without worrying about exposing family members to residual radioactivity.

Treating inoperable cervical cancer - The previous treatment required two hospitalizations. The much shorter HDR process includes applicator placement, followed by 10 minutes of radiation. The patient usually returns home the same day.

Treating tumors obstructing bronchial passages - During a pre-treatment bronchoscopy, a pulmonologist, places a thin catheter through the patient’s nose into a cancerous tumor. Patients require three or four treatments to shrink tumors and open airways.

RapidArc® intensity modulated radiation therapy

Intensity modulated radiation therapy shapes a treatment beam to fit the contours of its cancerous target. With computerized “sculpting,” high radiation doses can be delivered to a tumor while sparing normal surrounding tissue and organs. This minimizes side effects and means healthy tissue is less likely to be scarred or injured.

Behind-the-scenes preparation for IMRT is labor intensive, but each patient’s treatment time is still similar to standard radiation therapy. The reduced toxicity and improved cure rates are well worth the extra hours up front.


We use IMRT for prostate cancer and in other situations where it’s critical to avoid nearby organs. Some cancers we couldn’t have treated before are now eligible for radiation therapy, thanks to this method.

Positron emission tomography (PET)

Positron Emission Tomography can detect cancer and other diseases earlier, more accurately and with less patient discomfort than other diagnostic procedures. Total-body PET imaging can uncover abnormalities other methods might not detect. With this information, they can intervene earlier, plan more specific treatment and monitor effectiveness. PET scans can replace biopsies for certain types of masses and avoid unnecessary diagnostic and therapeutic surgeries.

PET images help the physician distinguish between malignant and benign (non-cancerous) tumors, locate cancer “hot spots,” determine the extent and stage of the disease, and track how rapidly tumors are growing. These images also are valuable in monitoring the progress of cancer treatment and the recurrence of cancer.

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS)

Stereotactic radiosurgery is an outpatient procedure that requires no incision. It eliminates complications and substantial recovery time associated with open brain surgery. When traditional cancer surgery is not an option due to other illnesses, tumor location or unacceptable risk to nearby organs, radiosurgery can give new hope for recovery.

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) delivers highly focused doses of radiation to a target from one or more angles. It has minimal effects on surrounding tissue and organs. This single-session treatment has such a dramatic effect on the targeted tissue that changes are considered "surgical."

Prostate permanent seed implant

Ultrasound-guided radioactive seed implantation in cancerous prostate glands is an effective method of treatment when early stage cancer is confined to the prostate. The procedure does not require surgical incision.

Low rates of complications such as incontinence and impotence make this method appealing for those it is an option for. An eight-year Gundersen Health System study shows this outpatient procedure allows more rapid return to normal activities with fewer lasting side effects and no significant reduction of projected cure rates.

Radioactive seed implant therapy continues to show promise. Five years post-implant, more than 85 percent of survivors treated with this method at Gundersen are cancer-free.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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