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Published on December 05, 2017

New recommendations for radiation therapy, better patient experiences

Patrick Conway, MD, Gundersen Radiation Oncology

Gundersen Health System has incorporated recent evidence-based treatment recommendations from the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) to better treat your patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Casey Abing, Gundersen Radiation Oncology

Rather than full brain radiation, when appropriate, your patients with brain cancer will now receive stereotactic radiosurgery—a procedure with similar patient outcomes as full brain radiation but with fewer adverse side effects.

"We are trying to do less whole brain radiation and more radiosurgeries," says Patrick Conway, MD, Gundersen Radiation Oncology. "This minimizes risks for neurocognitive impacts from treatment."

The shift in practice also increases overall quality of life for your patients, since most people experience few—if any—side effects from radiosurgery. As an added convenience, the procedure is completed in one treatment, meaning your patients spend less time traveling to and from appointments.

Similarly, Gundersen has adopted new ASTRO recommendations for patients receiving palliative radiation therapy.

In the past, patients may have received up to 15 radiation treatments as part of their palliative care. Under the new guidelines, patients will undergo fewer sessions of radiation therapy—often 10 treatments and, when appropriate, only one. Studies show this change in sequencing does not significantly alter patient outcomes, but carries several benefits.

"These suggestions were developed from scientific research and are reducing the cost of care," says Gundersen physicist Casey Abing. "We're hoping that implementing them also makes treatment more convenient for patients by allowing them to travel less throughout the course of their treatment."

Both of these shifts in practice are patient specific, and treatment plans are based on patients' needs and preferences. Therefore, stereotactic radiosurgery for treating brain cancer or a reduction in treatment sessions for palliative radiation therapy may not always be appropriate.

For more information or to schedule a consultation or referral, contact the Gundersen Cancer Center via MedLink at (800) 336-5465 or in La Crosse at 775-5465.

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