One of the treatments used to treat cancer is radiotherapy. How does this therapy work in curing cancer? Is it effective in fighting cancer? Are there side effects to be aware of when you undergo this kind of treatment? Let these questions be your guide to know more about radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy is a cancer treatment that mainly uses high energy x-rays and other similar rays. It is not a new procedure to fight diseases and infections as x-rays have been long discovered and practiced for many years. In this procedure, doctors and his team must be very careful and well experienced to conduct treatment.
Types of Radiotherapy
Most cancer patients are suggested to undergo radiotherapy. Depending on what the body needs or the condition of the patients, physicians can give external or internal radiotherapy.
As what the term suggests, internal radiotherapy is a kind of cancer treatment that is used to treat internal parts of the body that are affected by cancer. These organs include the head, neck, womb, cervix, prostate and skin. In this process, a radioactive material is placed within the part of the body in which cancer is present and must be treated.
Furthermore, this radiotherapy type is given in two ways, brachytherapy and radioisotope treatment. Brachytherapy involves the process of putting solid radioactive material inside or nearby the tumor for a short period of time, while radioisotope treatment uses a liquid radioactive through injection in the vein or drinking.
The other type is external beam radiotherapy, which is the most commonly given radiotherapy treatment for cancer. It involves the use of larger and high energy equipment just like the standard x-ray machines. It is only used to cure cancer located in outer parts of the body.
How Radiotherapy Works
Once a patient is processed through this treatment, the cancer cells, regardless of the occasion, are cured. Some normal or healthy cells are damaged as well, but they can repair themselves easily, so that is not a big problem at all. The aim of this treatment is to basically battle cancer and remove tumor. The right term for that is curative radiotherapy treatment. Yet, it can be also conducted to give relief of certain symptoms of cancer, including pain, which is known as palliative treatment. In addition, radiotherapy may be given while a patient is also in the period of having chemotherapy, called as chemoradiation.
Duration of Treatment
This treatment is given to certain people with cancer for different period of time. It may be a 2-week course, 5-week course or 7-week course. During the course of treatment, radiotherapy is usually conducted once a day except on the weekends, which is termed as a fraction. In each fraction, the treatment lasts for only 10 to 15 minutes.
There are situations in which patients may need to undergo for more than one treatment in a day, which may also include Saturday and Sunday. It is also possible to just have a few days in a week like Mondays to Wednesday or Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Like other treatments, radiotherapy includes a list of side effects. These effects are and should be discussed before the patient is treated with it. Among those side effects are feeling tired and sick, hair loss, skin reactions, and changes in the blood. It is also possible to experience long term effects, which include permanent hair loss, darker skin, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, excessive urinating, as well as infertility and narrowing of the vagina in women.
Patients have nothing to worry about having radiotherapy, because first of all, this is helpful in treating the cancer. Yet, there are precautions that every cancer patient needs to be aware of. The radioactive material implanted in the body must be in place. Also, some patients are encouraged to stay in the hospital and be quarantined to avoid passing or exposing radiation to other people.
Everything you need to know must be first discussed with the doctor. It is important to know all those information since a patient has the right to know them and understand how it works during and after. Overall, it is a good type of treatment of different types of cancer.