What is Radiotherapy?
Radiotherapy is one type of cancer treatment that uses concentrated radiation beams to kill cancer cells and keeps them from growing and multiplying. The primary goal of radiotherapy is to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. It can be used during different stages of cancer treatment and it also treats noncancerous (benign) tumors. Radiation therapy for cancer can be used:
- As the primary treatment for cancer.
- To shrink a tumor before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy)
- To kill any remaining cancer cells after surgery (adjuvant therapy)
- In combination with other treatments like chemotherapy, to destroy cancer cells
- To relieve symptoms in advanced, late-stage cancer.
What are the Types of Radiation Therapy?
According to your cancer type and stage, your doctor will determine the dosage and frequency of radiation to target the cancer cells in your body and minimize the harm to the surrounding healthy tissues. There are two types of radiation therapy:
External Radiation Therapy (Radiation directed outside the body)
Internal Radiation Therapy (Radiation therapy that places Radioactive material inside the body to be directed to the tumor)
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How is Radiotherapy Performed?
Step 1: You will be asked to lie on your back on top of the X-ray table while the radiation therapist uses a special machine called a simulator to locate the treatment area.
Step 2: The Preparation for radiation therapy involves a RADIATION SIMULATION which includes positioning you at the best angle for treatment.
Step 3: You might be positioned with molds to hold you in place. Protective covering or shields may also be positioned on or around you to protect other body parts from unnecessary radiation. Your radiotherapy team will mark the area of your body that will receive the radiation with a temporary marker.
Step 4: The linear accelerator machine directs radiation at the exact spot of the tumor. The machine may move around the table in order to direct the radiation at the appropriate angles and the machine makes a buzzing sound.
Step 5: You generally receive external beam radiation on an outpatient basis five days a week for 1 to 10 weeks. The total number of treatments depends on the size and type of cancer. Each session usually takes about 10 to 30 minutes.
Following up after Radiotherapy:
Your doctor might ask you to undergo periodic scans, so that he can monitor how your cancer has responded to radiation therapy. Based on your results your treatment would be adjusted if necessary.
What are the Side Effects of Radiotherapy?
The side effects depend on which part of your body is being exposed to radiation and how much radiation is consumed.
|Part of the body being treated||Common Side Effects of Radiotherapy|
|Any part||Fatigue and hair loss are common side effects. Hair loss only happens on the part of your body being treated. Radiation also affects skin cells causing itching, blistering, dryness and peeling.|
|Head and neck||Sore throat, mouth sores, Dry mouth, thickened saliva, difficulty swallowing, changes in the way food tastes, nausea, tooth decay.|
|Chest||Difficulty swallowing, cough, shortness of breath.|
|Abdomen||Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.|
|Pelvis||Diarrhea, bladder irritation, frequent urination, sexual dysfunction.|
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