Patient FAQs – The TrueBeam System

Patient FAQs – The TrueBeam System

The TrueBeam™ system is an advanced radiotherapy system from Varian Medical Systems that delivers powerful cancer treatments with pinpoint accuracy and precision. It uniquely integrates advanced imaging and motion management technologies within a sophisticated new architecture that makes it possible to deliver treatments more quickly while monitoring and compensating for tumor motion, opening the door to new possibilities for the treatment of lung, breast, prostate, head and neck, as well as other cancers.

What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy has been used as a safe, effective treatment for cancer for many years. In fact, nearly two out of every three cancer patients receive some type of radiotherapy during their treatment. Radiotherapy works by limiting the ability of cancer cells to grow and spread. Radiation disrupts the DNA of these fast-growing cancer cells and prevents them from replicating.

The radiation is generated by a machine called a linear accelerator, which shapes beams of energy with varying intensities. These beams can be aimed at a tumor from multiple angles to attack it in a 3-D manner. The TrueBeam System delivers the lowest dose possible to the surrounding healthy tissue, while still delivering the maximum dose to the tumor.

When you hear the word “radiation,” you may immediately think of radioactive substances. However, no radioactive substances are involved in the creation of the beam by a medical linear accelerator. When a linear accelerator is switched “on,” radiation is produced and aimed directly at cancer cells. Then when the system is switched off, radiation is no longer emitted from the system.

What are the benefits of TrueBeam treatments?

The TrueBeam system gives medical professionals the tools to treat many different types of cancers. Benefits include:

  • Speed – Simple treatments that once took 10 to 30 minutes can now be completed in less than two minutes. Faster treatment delivery not only is more comfortable for patients, requiring less time on the treatment couch, it also reduces the chance of tumor motion during treatment, which helps protect nearby healthy tissue and critical organs.
  • Precision – The accuracy of the TrueBeam system is measured in increments of less than a millimeter, which is made possible by the system’s sophisticated architecture. The TrueBeam system synchronizes imaging, patient positioning, motion management, beam shaping and dose delivery, performing accuracy checks every ten milliseconds throughout the entire treatment.
  • Imaging – TrueBeam imaging technology quickly produces the 3-D images used to fine-tune tumor targeting, using 25 percent less X-ray dose than previous systems.
  • Motion Tracking – For lung and other tumors subject to respiratory motion, TrueBeam offers Gated RapidArc® radiotherapy, which makes it possible to monitor the patient’s breathing and compensate for movement of the tumor while the dose is being delivered in a continuous rotation of the treatment machine.


What happens when a person is treated with the TrueBeam system?

TrueBeam treatment involves these basic steps:

  • Treatment Planning – After a diagnosis, the medical physicist generates 3-D diagnostic images (usually CT or MRI) of the tumor and the area around it. Using these images, a radiation oncologist will work with the physicist to plan your individualized treatment, specifying the dose of radiation needed to treat the tumor.
  • Treatment Preparation – Most cases require a treatment preparation session. Special molded devices that help the patient maintain the same position every day are sometimes developed at this point. The radiation oncologist may request to have the treatment area marked on the patient’s skin to assist in aligning the equipment with the target area.
  • Treatment – The individualized TrueBeam treatments will be delivered according to a schedule specific to the treatment plan. The total dose of radiation is usually divided into smaller doses, called fractions, which are delivered daily over a specific time period. During a TrueBeam treatment, the linear accelerator can rotate around the patient to deliver the radiation. The radiation is shaped and reshaped as it is continuously delivered from virtually every angle in a 360-degree revolution around the patient. Sometimes a marker block device is used to monitor breathing patterns to compensate for breathing motion during the treatment. Most treatments usually take only a few minutes each day.


Who are the professionals you may typically encounter during your TrueBeam treatments?

There are a number of medical professionals who may be involved in your treatment:

  • Radiation oncologist – A doctor who has had special training in using radiation to treat diseases and prescribes the type and amount of treatment. The radiation oncologist may work closely with other doctors and the rest of the healthcare team.
  • Medical physicist – Participates in the planning process and ensures that the machines deliver the right dose of radiation.
  • Dosimetrist – Plans the treatment with the oncologist and the physicist.
  • Radiation therapy nurse – Provides nursing care and may help the patient learn about treatment or how to manage any side effects.
  • Radiation therapist – Sets the patient up for treatment and operates the equipment that delivers the radiation.


How long does TrueBeam treatment take?

The length of the treatment course varies depending on the diagnosis. Generally, radiation therapy usually is given daily over several weeks.

Do you become radioactive after TrueBeam treatment?

External radiation therapy does not cause anyone’s body to become radioactive. After receiving TrueBeam treatments, you won’t need to avoid being with other people. Side effects of radiation therapy most often are related to the area that is being treated. You should consult with your doctor to discuss the specific diagnosis, prognosis and possible side effects from radiation treatment.

Is TrueBeam treatment expensive?

The exact cost of radiation therapy will depend on the type and number of treatments a patient needs. Many health insurance policies cover charges for radiotherapy. You should speak with your insurer, your doctor’s office staff or the hospital business office about your policy and how expected costs will be paid.