Radiation therapy is a process through which high energy waves such as X-rays, gamma rays or electron beams are used to destroy the cancer cells and its further growth.
When some cells start to grow and divide faster than normal rate, they are cancerous. They spread fast and have rapid growth. Radiation therapy works by breaking this chain of growth. The radiation kills the DNA of the cancerous cells that cause them to die.
Radiation therapy is given to people with cancer. Some may need radiation along with other forms of cancer treatment. But some patients may also require only radiation therapy. The treatment depends on the type of cancer, stage and the overall health condition of the cancer patient.
The oncologist recommends radiation therapy for cancer after a thorough diagnosis and analysing the test results.
The two primary types of radiation therapy given to cancer patients are as follows:
External radiation therapy– In this process, beam radiation is used with the help of a machine. The device directs high energy radiation to the targeted body parts or the tumour externally. This treatment can be done on an outpatient basis. This treatment is generally given for many weeks and patients may also need to take twice a day. With external radiation, the patient does not become radioactive.
Internal radiation therapy– In this process, a radioactive source is used and is put inside the body or near the tumour. This treatment method is also called brachytherapy. Some treatments need the radioactive substance to be left inside the body to work on its own. This therapy makes a person radioactive. The doctors will instruct certain precautions to be taken after internal radiation therapy.
It depends on the type of cancer and the stage that determines the radiation therapy. Not every patient is advised for external or internal radiation therapy.
Trained and knowledgeable medical professionals are only qualified to administer radiation therapy. Sometimes a team of doctors and trained medical staff work together to administer radiation therapy. The team may include:
Radiation Oncologists– This doctor treats cancer patients with a planned radiation therapy session.
Radiation Therapist– A radiation therapist is a person who operates the devices and the process of radiation therapy.
Radiation Physicist– A physicist who is trained in radiation therapy manages the treatment equipment and administers the right dose of the radiation.
Radiation therapy cannot be used for all types of cancer. But it is effective and is one of the most successful cancer treatments. One must consult with an oncologist to discuss cancer types and how radiation therapy will help them.
Make sure you talk about the pros and cons of the treatment along with all the doubts and queries you have. Before you start radiation therapy, you must follow all the instructions given to you by your oncologist for maximum success.