Radio Therapy

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About Radio Therapy

Commonly known as radiotherapy, Radiation Therapy is one of the most widely used treatment options for cancer. Radiation therapy involves the use of X-rays to damage or injure cancer cells so as to stop their growth. Radiation therapy can be used to treat the basic cancer or advanced cancer.

Radiation therapy is meant to:

  • cure - some cancers can be healed by radiation therapy only or in combination with other treatments.
  • control - radiation therapy can help control some cancers by reducing their size or stopping them from spreading.
  • help other treatments - radiotherapy can be employed before or after other treatments to make them more potent
  • relieve symptoms - if cure is not seen, radiation therapy may be used to relieve cancer symptoms and enhance a good quality of life.

Radiotherapy slays or damages cancer cells in the area being healed. Cancer cells start to die within days or weeks of treatment starting and continue to die for weeks or months after it finishes. Though the radiation can also destroy healthy cells, these can generally repair themselves.

Types of Radiation Therapy

Radiotherapy can be done in different ways. Your doctors will recommend the most appropriate type for you.

The most common types are:

  • radiotherapy delivered by a machine (external radiotherapy) – where a machine is used to preciselytarget beams of radiation at the area withcancer
  • radiotherapy implants (brachytherapy) – where small pieces of radioactive metal are (generally temporarily) put inside your body near the cancer
  • radiotherapy injections, capsules or drinks (radioisotope therapy) – where radioactive liquid is swallowed or inserted into the blood

Treatment is typically given in hospital. You can generally go home soon after external radiotherapy is done, but you may need to be in hospital for a couple of days if you have implants or radioisotope therapy.

In most of the cases, people have several treatment sessions, which are generallyextend over the course of a few weeks.

The doses

Radiotherapy is typicallyprovided as a number of treatments in which a lower dose of radiation is given daily over many weeks.

Before the start of treatment, a care team will carve out a plan that sketches:

  • the kind of radiotherapy you'll have
  • number of treatment sessions you'll need
  • the frequency of treatment you'll need

In most of the cases, peoplereceive five treatments a week (one treatment a day from Monday to Friday, with a pause at the weekend). But many times treatment may be delivered more than once a day or over the weekend.

A doctor may refer each dose a "fraction", though the term "attendance" is often used to designate how many hospitals visits you'll need to make during treatment.

How Radiotherapy is done

The major types of radiotherapy are described below.

Radiotherapy provided with the use of a machine (external radiotherapy)

In case of external radiotherapy, patient lie down on a table and a machine is employed to project beams of radiation at the cancer. This machine is controlled from outside the room, but patient is monitored through a window or a camera. There remains an intercom in case if patient need to speak to the doctor treating him or her.

A patient is needed to keep as stationery as possible during the treatment. It typically only takes a few minutes and is totally painless. The patient can normally go home soon after it has completed.

More often a slightly different technique may be used, such as:

  • intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – In which the shape and strength of the radiation beams are changed to precisely match to the region of the cancer
  •  image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) – where scans are performed before and during each treatment session to make sure the cancer is beleagueredprecisely
  • stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) – where several smaller beams of radiation are positioned at the cancer very accurately, so a heavy dose can be given at once (typically in a single treatment)
  • stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) – where many beams of radiation are aimed at the cancer from different directions

Radiotherapy implants (brachytherapy)

Radioactive implants (metal wires, seeds or tubes) are used to manage cancer in areas of the body where they can be put inside the body without surgery (such as the vagina).Sometimes surgery is employed to put an implant near the cancer.

The extent of time the implant is left in your body differs. It could be a few minutes or several days. In a few cases, tiny implants may be placed inside the body permanently.The radiation from the implants is typically painless, but it can be injurious to others therefore the patient may need to be in hospital for a few days until the implant is detached.Permanent implants aren't a threat to others s they generate a very small amount of radiation that usually decreases over time.

Radiotherapy injections, capsules or drinks (radioisotope therapy)

Some kinds of cancer, such as thyroid cancer and some prostate cancers, can be managed with radioactive liquid that's swallowed or injected. The patient may remain radioactive for a few days after treatment is delivered, so the patient willlikely need to stay in hospital as a protection until the amount of radiation has reached to a safe level.

A dedicated treatment panel of expert may give the patient some advice to stick to for a few days when he or sheget home to preventother people to threat exposure.

Side Effects

Side-effects of radiotherapy differ and typically depend on which portion of your body is being treated. Possible side-effects include

  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • dry, red or itchy skin
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • digestive problems
  • hair loss
  • dry or sore throat or mouth
  • cough or shortness of breath.



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