Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that makes use of beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells. usually, radiation therapy uses X-rays, but protons or other types of energy can also be used.
Radiotherapy qualifies the use of radiation to destroy cancer cells locally. This technique thus makes it possible to treat tumors without affecting neighboring organs or tissues.
There are several types of radiotherapy, but the most frequently used is external radiotherapy, which uses a beam of radiation that passes through the skin to treat the area. During external radiotherapy, the high-energy beams come from an external machine (outside of one’s body), that aims the beams at a precise point on your body, where the cancer cell is located.
There is a different type of radiation treatment called brachytherapy (brak-e-THER-uh-pee), where radiation is placed inside your body.
- Radiation therapy is a local treatment if it affects cancer cells only in the treated area. If the area treated is broader, then it becomes a regional treatment.
- The whole body can be given radiation therapy for a systemic or total-body effect, but that is extremely rare.
- Radiation can come from a machine (external radiation), or it can come from an implant (a small container of radioactive material) placed temporarily or permanently into or near the tumor (internal or interstitial radiation).
- Some patients may receive both kinds of radiation therapy.
- More than half of all people with cancer receive radiation therapy at one point or the other as part of their cancer treatment.
- Doctors use radiation therapy to treat just about every type of cancer and are also useful in treating some noncancerous (benign) tumors.
- Radiation therapy can be used as the only (primary) treatment for cancer
- It can also be used before surgery, to shrink a cancerous tumor (neoadjuvant therapy)
- Radiation therapy can be used after surgery, to stop the growth of any remaining cancer cells (adjuvant therapy).
- Radiation therapy can also be used in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, to destroy cancer cells
- Finally, doctors can use Radiation therapy in advanced cancer to alleviate symptoms caused by cancer.
- With radiation therapy, the side effects depend on the treatment dose and the part of the body that is being treated.
- The most common side effects include tiredness or fatigue, Skin reactions such as a rash or redness, permanent pigmentation, and scarring, in the treated area.
- Inflammation of tissues and organs in and around the body site radiated can also occur as a side effect.
- Radiation can inflame skin to cause a skin burn or permanent pigmentation on the skin.
- Radiation therapy can also irritate the colon and cause diarrhea.
- Radiation therapy can result in a decrease in the number of white blood cells, which help protect the body against infection.
- Although the side effects of radiation therapy can be distasteful, they can usually be controlled, and in most cases, they are not permanent.
- The possible side effects of radiation therapy depend on the location and the amount of radiation being used.
Today radiation therapy uses modern types of equipment and can be better focused. Thus, fewer side effects are experienced by patients.