This article focuses on determining the pros and cons of radiotherapy while understanding how and why it is delivered and its side-effects. 

Radiotherapy (RT) is widely used for treating tumors around the world. The therapy is an effective way of killing malignant cells, that also delivers faster recovery. It can be given internally as well as externally.  

•    External RT is performed with high-energy X-rays aimed at the affected area with the help of a linear accelerator.

•    Internal RT is accomplished by inserting radioactive materials inside the body.

What is Radiotherapy (RT)?

Radiotherapy or Radiation Therapy uses radiation waves for treating benign cancer or non-cancerous tumors and other infections. The radiation is delivered using linear accelerators that help in giving targeted therapy. Ionizing radiation, a type of high-energy radiation is used for treating the cancerous cells.

Interesting Facts about Radiation Therapy

•    It uses powerful radiation energy to disable the ability of cancer cells to divide or grow, by slowing their growth and killing the cancer cells that helps in shrinking the tumor, preparing the patient for the surgery.

•    It uses high doses of radiation for killing cancer cells by killing their DNA.

•    It damages cancerous cells as well as the healthy cells in the body.

•    RT can be given to the patient during the surgery or before and after the operation depending on the condition of the patient.

•    To deliver accuracy during the therapy sessions, the treatment his simulated during the planning of the procedure before the administration of the real treatment.  

How does Radiation Therapy Work?

Unlike chemotherapy in which the patient is given high-dozes of anti-cancer medicines oral or via IV, radiation therapy uses ionizing radiation for targeting the cancerous cells or tumor in the body preventing them from multiplying or growing, so that the patient can be prepared for the surgery. The radiation is targeted at the infected area of the patient body, affecting only that particular area.

This therapy is performed using radiation beams that are targeted on the damaged area. The target area is determined before the therapy is initiated with the image-guidance derived from tests like X-rays, ultrasound and MRI.

Radiotherapy can be used for the treatment of the following conditions:

    Benign Cancer

•    Tumors

•    Non-Cancerous Tumors

•    Blood Infection

•    Abnormal Growth of Cells

Radiotherapy Side Effects

Typically, the side effects of radiotherapy do not appear before a few weeks or months after the therapy, making it difficult for the patient to analyze any reaction. These are some of the common side-effects felt after this treatment:

Short-Term

•    Lethargy or Fatigue

•    Effects specific to the site of the treatment, like diarrhea, hair loss, vomiting, nausea, or urinary problems. 

•    Skin Irritation which might include blisters, swelling or tanned or sunburned appearance.

•    Tissue Inflammation, like pneumonitis, esophagitis

•    It might affect the production of white blood or platelets in the body.

Long-Term

•    Skin Effects – The speed of the healing of wounds might get slower after the treatment. Some patient even develops purplish or spidery red appearance on their skin due to dilated capillary vessels.

•    Stiffened or Restricted Movement – Radiation therapy targeted on joints like the neck, knee etc. can lead the surrounding muscles to stiffen. This can be caused because of tissue scarring. Doctors recommend specific exercises to the patient to help them loosen their movement after the therapy. 

•    Hormone Problems – can include dry mouth, hypothyroidism, memory loss, or infertility.

•    Development of Second Cancer – Although rare, in some cases the patient might develop the risk of recurrence of cancer. Exposure to high-dose of radiation can lead to soft-tissue sarcoma. In some case, the patients can even develop a new type of cancer. 

Also Check: Radiation Therapy Long Term Side Effects

FAQs

What is the cost of Radiation therapy in India?

The cost of radiation therapy for treating cancer can range from USD 3500(IMRT), on outpatient basis. 

Can I die from radiation therapy?

Radiation therapy won’t kill the patient, but the symptoms generated because of the therapy might cause a medical situation or accident that might cause death.

Are radiation therapy side-effects deadly?

Most of the symptoms experienced after radiation therapy usually fade away after a few weeks. But some of these signs can cause some severe health condition that might degrade the health of the patient.

Explore MedMonks.com to learn about different types of radiation therapies and other treatments for curing cancer.