FAQ

The HalcyonTM radiotherapy system is Varian’s newest cancer-treatment device that offers 3-D conformal, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), and RapidArc® radiotherapy.

Halcyon was designed to elevate patient care while simplifying and shortening virtually every aspect of the treatment process, delivering treatments in a fraction of the time it takes with conventional machines.

Halcyon allows for high-quality treatment plans appropriate for a variety of cancers, such as those of the brain, head and neck, prostate, lungs, and breasts.

Halcyon enables clinics and hospitals to deliver leading-edge care in an environment that’s more patient friendly than ever.

Here are some of its advantages:

  • Halcyon treatments require no surgery, no incisions, and no post-surgical healing.
  • Halcyon was designed to provide treatment quickly and efficiently. Imaging can be completed in about 15 seconds, and treatments are typically completed in just nine steps. That means the patient’s time on the machine is greatly reduced. In fact, most treatments are completed in about 10 minutes. That’s half of what’s expected with conventional machines.
  • Since Halcyon uses a quiet water-cooled system, the treatment room can be kept at a much more comfortable temperature. Advancements like a spacious opening, ambient lighting, and a low treatment-couch position work to keep patients as comfortable as possible during treatment. Additionally, Halcyon’s imaging and treatment components are enclosed, so patients don’t see anything rotating around them.
  • To create a closer connection between patient and therapist during treatment, Halcyon includes an integrated camera and intercom, allowing the therapist to watch over the patient and speak with them at all times. If the patient accidently bumps into the bore (the opening of the machine) during treatment, the collision-detection system immediately pauses treatment and motion.
  • Halcyon will keep getting better at treating cancer as new protocols and enhancements are developed, incorporated, and updated directly into the system’s software. As the fight against cancer advances, so do Halcyon’s capabilities.

An effective treatment for cancer, radiotherapy has been used successfully for many years; currently, nearly two out of every three cancer patients in the US receive some type of radiotherapy during their treatment, according to the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).
Radiotherapy works by limiting the ability of cancer cells to grow and spread, disrupting the DNA of these fast-growing cancer cells and preventing them from replicating. If cancer cells can’t reproduce, they die, and tumors shrink.
The radiation is generated by a machine called a medical linear accelerator. This machine generates high-energy X-ray beams of varying intensities, which can be conformed to the three-dimensional shape of a tumor. This allows the maximum dose to be delivered to the tumor while minimizing the exposure of surrounding healthy tissue.

When they hear the word “radiation,” many people think immediately 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 in the form of high-energy X-rays, or photons, and aimed directly at cancer cells. Then, like a flashlight, when the system is switched off, the photon beam disappears.

Radiotherapy treatment involves several basic steps: diagnosis, the planning of the individual treatment, and the delivery of the treatment.
After the diagnosis, the radiation oncologist takes three-dimensional diagnostic images (usually CT or MRI scans) of the tumor and the area around it and uses them to create a prescription that specifies the dose of radiation needed to treat the tumor, plus constraints to be considered for avoiding nearby tissues and organs. The radiation oncologist then works with a medical physicist to plan the individualized treatment.
After a treatment plan is finalized, the patient receives individualized radiotherapy treatments according to the schedule prescribed in the plan. The total dose of radiation is usually divided into smaller doses (called fractions) that are given daily over a specific time period (e.g., five days a week for six weeks).

  • Treatment preparation. X-rays and/or CT scans may be taken in preparation for planning the treatment. Following these scans, the treatment-planning process can take several days, during which time the patient need not be present. When the treatment plan is complete, radiotherapy treatments can begin.
  • Treatment delivery. When it’s time for treatment, the radiation therapist (RT) will help position the patient on the treatment table and make sure they’re comfortable. Just prior to treatment, images will be taken to allow the RT to verify the tumor’s exact size and location. Once the therapist makes any necessary adjustments, treatment will begin.

The radiation therapist will leave the treatment room before the machine is turned on. The machine delivers radiation beams shaped to match the size and shape of the tumor from virtually every angle in a 360-degree revolution using a beam-shaping device called a multileaf collimator. This device is designed to create apertures of different shapes and sizes.

Most treatments take only a few minutes a day. The first treatment session may be longer than subsequent ones so that additional images can be acquired to check the position of the tumor on the day of the treatment.

  1. A radiation oncologist is 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.
  2. A medical physicist participates in the planning process so that the machines deliver the right dose of radiation.
  3. A dosimetrist plans the treatment with the oncologist and the physicist.
  4. A radiation therapy nurse provides nursing care and may help the patient learn about treatment or how to manage any side effects.
  5. A radiation therapist sets the patient up for treatment and operates the equipment that delivers the radiation.

Typically, radiotherapy treatments are given five days a week over a period of two to six weeks or more. The course of treatment length varies depending on the diagnosis, so patients should ask their radiation oncologists for more specific information.

Not at all. External radiation therapy does not cause anyone’s body to become radioactive. There is no need to avoid being with other people because of treatment. Even hugging, kissing, or having sexual relations with others poses no risk to them of radiation exposure.

The exact cost of radiation therapy will depend on the type and number of treatments a patient requires. Many health insurance policies cover charges for radiotherapy. It’s a good idea for patients to talk with their insurers or with their doctor’s office staff or the hospital business office about their policy and how expected costs will be paid.

Many people don’t experience side effects* from radiation treatments. However, serious side effects can occur, including but not limited to fatigue and skin irritation. Side effects most often affect the treatment site itself but can extend beyond it. Patients should ask their doctor what to expect from their specific cancer treatment.
*The Halcyon system may not be appropriate for all cancers. Serious side effects can occur, including fatigue and skin irritation. Treatment times may vary. Patients should ask their doctor if Halcyon is right for their particular case.

High quality of care. Halcyon delivers treatments in a fraction of the time it takes with traditional machines, without compromising quality. Its dual-layer MLC has been optimized for modulated treatments, giving it the ability to target tumors with pinpoint accuracy while minimizing the exposure of surrounding healthy tissue.

Operational efficiency. Halcyon’s streamlined and efficient processes allow treatments to be completed in just nine steps. A one-step setup provides fast, safe patient positioning, and standardized workflows allow therapists to focus on patients rather than the machine.

Human-centered design. Halcyon was built to deliver advanced treatments in an environment that’s more patient friendly than ever. During a radiotherapy treatment with Halcyon, the imaging and treatment-delivery components are enclosed, so the patient doesn’t see anything rotating around them. A spacious opening, ambient lighting, and relaxing music help keep patients comfortable during treatment. And Halcyon features an integrated camera and intercom that allow for constant audio and visual contact. Treatments can be completed in around 10 minutes, so patients can get back to their lives with minimal disruption.

The leader. Varian, the manufacturer of Halcyon, has been a pioneer in the field of oncology for over 70 years. Varian was the first in the world to offer a linear accelerator for radiation therapy. Now Halcyon, its latest innovation, has redefined the industry’s standards and is transforming the way the world thinks about treating cancer.