Radiation therapy is also known as radiotherapy. It is a therapy which involves the use of ionizing radiation to treat cancer. The ionizing destroy malignant cells, it damages the DNA of cancerous cells leading to cellular death. Radiation can also drain lymph nodes which are clinically or radiologically connected to tumors hence helping clear tumors.
Radiation therapy is administered by radiation oncologists. It consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time. Radiation therapy involves treatment with high-energy radiation from x rays, gamma rays, and other sources. Because of the high doses of energy involved, care is usually taken during a radiotherapy session to focus the radiation in angle whereby the radiation only concentrate on the cancerous cells.
Radiation therapy has the following benefits:
Radiation therapy treats cancer
Radiation therapy is effective in treating cancer. The high-energy beams or waves used in radiotherapy help to destroy tumors and cancerous cells. Elimination of tumors helps to prevent the recurrence of cancer. Radiation therapy helps to treat various kinds of cancer among them leukemia, skin cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer. Radiation therapy is especially effective when the cancer cells are detected while still in an early stage.
Radiation therapy works synergistically with chemotherapy
A combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy works better in treating cancer as opposed to only one of the two treatment methods. Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that involves the use of drugs and medicines. It may involve the use of one or more anti-cancer drugs. Chemotherapy targets cell within the body which divide rapidly as cancerous cells are known to do while radiotherapy targets specific tumors in a specific position. A combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy therefore works more effectively in treating cancer.
Radiation therapy offers palliative care
In the case where removal of a tumor is not possible, radiation therapy is employed so as to offer palliative care to cancer patients. Radiation therapy helps to lessen pain and other symptoms like pressure. Radiotherapy shrinks the tumor.
Radiation therapy is important before and after surgery
Radiation therapy can be used to shrink a tumor before surgery so that it becomes easier to remove the tumor. This process is known as neoadjuvant treatment. Radiation therapy can also be used after surgery to remove small amounts of tumor which may still be left inside the body. This process is known as adjuvant treatment.
How is radiation therapy done?
Radiation therapy can be carried out inside the body or outside the body.
Internal radiotherapy involves the placement of a small piece of radioactive material inside the body. The radioactive material is placed next to cancerous cells. This is known as brachytherapy. Internal radiotherapy can also involve swallowing a radioactive liquid. This liquid can also be administered through injection. Radioactive materials used in internal radiotherapy can either be temporary or permanent. Internal radiotherapy is painless but the process of taking in the radioactive materials can be painful.
External radiotherapy on the other hand involves the use of a machine known as linear accelerator. This machine focuses high-energy radiation beams to the affected part of the body. External radiotherapy usually involves daily treatments over a given time. It may take a number of days or weeks. External radiotherapy is completely painless.
Considerations before radiation therapy
Before beginning radiotherapy, you will meet a radiation oncologist who will tell you whether or not it is right for you to undergo radiotherapy. He or she will examine you and check your medical records. Your consent will also be required.