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What is total body irradiation?

Total body irradiation (TBI) is radiation treatment that is used to destroy cancerous cells in the body. It is often performed in patients before stem cell or bone marrow transplants to destroy any remaining cancer cells and to create space for new stem cells.

When TBI is used prior to a stem cell transplant, the treatment lowers the immune system to help prevent the body from rejecting donated stem cells or bone marrow. TBI can also eliminate any remaining cancer cells in the body.

We offer the largest bone marrow and stem cell transplant program on Long Island and Queens, with the most advanced, individualized options available.

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Why it's done

At Northwell Health Cancer Institute, TBI is one of many advanced radiation therapies used to treat cancer. By utilizing TBI, our physicians can deliver high doses of radiation to a targeted prepare the body for a stem cell or bone marrow transplant.

TBI is provided in a caring and professional environment by staff who are dedicated to making each patient visit as informative and stress-free as possible. This begins with an in-depth conversation describing the treatment, including what to expect, possible side effects and goals. The personalized treatment also includes careful consideration of current health, family history, age and patient preferences.

All radiation therapies, including TBI, are administered using evidence-based medicine. A multidisciplinary team of doctors, including radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists and radiology oncologists collaborate on treatment plans to ensure that every aspect of treatment is precisely coordinated for the best possible outcome. This includes ongoing peer review and chart rounds.

Research at Northwell

Northwell Health Cancer Institute is recognized for its commitment to providing pioneering treatment for cancer patients. The ongoing focus on improving cancer treatments has contributed to significant advancements that are improving the quality of lives and increasing the number of cancer survivors.

Learn more about clinical trials and research.

The Department of Radiation Medicine offers a wide range of safe, effective and compassionate radiation therapy options for adults and children at locations across Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island and Westchester.

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What to expect

TBI is a painless inpatient procedure (performed in a hospital). A machine, called a linear accelerator, is used to direct a high-energy radiation beam to specific parts of your body during treatment. Treatments are typically given once or twice each day for three to four days. Each treatment takes about an hour.

Possible side effects

There are a number of potential side effects that can occur following TBI. These include:

  • Hair loss
  • Throat or mouth pain
  • Mouth sores
  • Changes in taste
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Low blood counts

Most side effects usually go away after treatment ends. But, you may feel very tired for several weeks after your last treatment. Talk to your doctor about ways to treat the side effects.

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