Radiation Therapy Safety Measures

Radiation therapy can be an effective treatment for certain types of cancer. At the Bodine Center for Radiation Therapy at Jefferson's Kimmel Cancer Center, an integrated team of radiation oncologists, physicists, nurses, dosimetrists (the person that calculates the dose of radiation to make sure your tumor gets enough radiation), therapists and others will work together to provide you with safe and accurate treatment.

Our goal is to provide you the safest and most effective treatment possible. In fact, all of Jefferson's Radiation Oncology Departments have been awarded accreditation in radiation oncology by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO). This accreditation represents the highest level of quality and patient safety.

Our team process ensures that at each stage of your treatment you are receiving the exact amount of radiation necessary to treat your cancer, delivered by highly skilled professionals. "This represents the highest level of quality assurance, and we are proud to offer this to our patients," says Adam Dicker, MD, chair, Department of Radiation Oncology.

Reviewing Your Treatment Plan – Before, During and After Radiation

Your individualized treatment plan is outlined by the radiation oncologist, reviewed and approved after completion by an experienced dosimetrist.

Before this plan is sent to the treatment machine, a physicist will review the plan for consistency, appropriateness and accuracy of transfer of information from the treatment-planning system to the treatment-delivery software.

Therapists are directly involved in your day-to-day treatments. Each time the radiation therapist verifies your identity and treatment site, carefully positions you in the same setup, performs verifications and cross-check, before delivering the radiation fraction.

At the start and the end of your treatment, as well as every week in between, physicists will review the entire treatment record to make sure all radiation is delivered according to plan.

Ensuring Accuracy

Each day our radiation equipment is put through an array of tests by a therapist and then verified by the physicist at specific intervals.

The frequency and types of testing is recommended by the American Association of Medical Physicists (AAPM). Jefferson physicists are actively involved in this organization and the formulation of its guidelines.

Quality assurance testing is performed at daily, monthly and yearly intervals and any time a change is made to a piece of equipment. "We are taking quality assurance to the next level and are one of the few institutions who have spent the effort to bring this team approach together," says Yan Yu, PhD, MBA, professor/director, Medical Physics, Department of Radiation Oncology.

Each machine is calibrated using dedicated ion chambers, phantoms and water tanks in combination with other electronic equipment to confirm that the machine is delivering the correct amount of radiation.

Other checks include tests to verify mechanical components and dosimetric accessories such as wedges and blocks. All imaging devices — which are often used daily or weekly to set up and verify your treatment — are also put through a series of rigorous tests.

The TrueBeam™ System is the latest radiation delivery equipment offered in the Bodine Center for Radiation Therapy. This linear accelerator, or LINAC, is capable of delivering fast and precise 3-D image-guided radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer. Treatments focus powerful radiation on the tumor while limiting exposure to surrounding healthy tissues. We have two TrueBeam systems at the Bodine Center for Radiation Therapy and one at our Riddle, Pa. location. The TrueBeam Slim will be installed at Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in fall 2014.

Inspections, Certifications and Reporting

All linear accelerators are inspected and certified before installation. Upon installation, our physics group performs acceptance testing to make sure the product performs up to the quoted standards and specifications of the manufacturer. Once acceptance testing is complete, the physics group will perform a more rigorous set of testing to characterize the device, known as commissioning. This type of testing is performed for all devices in the Department of Radiation Oncology and sets the baseline for all subsequent testing.

Our Department also undergoes annual performance audits by the state of Pennsylvania to ensure that our equipment and radioactive material complies with regulations.

Jefferson's Role in Committees and National Organizations

The Radiation Safety Committee at Jefferson is in place to oversee our Radiation Oncology team. In addition, Jefferson has a NRC-Quality Management Committee, which meets once a year to review sample patient charts involving the use of radioactive materials such as brachytherapy and nuclear medicine.

On a national scale, Jefferson radiation oncologists and physicists are involved in both the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM). Members of our Department have also been involved in writing task group reports, which provide recommendations about certain procedures, practice guidelines, etc.