Total body irradiation therapy

What is it?

Total body irradiation (TBI) is used in combination with chemotherapy to prepare patients with leukemia for stem cell and bone marrow transplant. This treatment penetrates the body’s “sanctuary sites”—areas that chemotherapy is unable to reach, such as the central nervous system—to kill leukemic cells and begins the ablation process in the marrow. Markey is the only cancer center in Kentucky that offers TBI.

What should patients expect?

Before the first TBI treatment, patients undergo a “simulation,” during which the radiation oncologist and team take x-rays and CT scans to inform your treatment plan and calculate the accurate radiation dose. If necessary, they also create custom shields to protect sensitive organs, such as the lungs, from the radiation.

Depending on your treatment needs, TBI is administered to your entire body in one low dose in one session or higher doses across several sessions. Patients must lie very still on a table for the treatment, which lasts about 15 to 20 minutes.

What are the side effects?

TBI may cause some side effects, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Skin reaction.