What is Radiotherapy Treatment for Cancer?

What is Radiotherapy Treatment for Cancer?

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Radiotherapy or radiation therapy is a common treatment method which is used by oncologists to treat your cancer. Let’s do a detailed analysis of what is radiotherapy treatment for cancer?

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What is radiation therapy and its purpose?

Radiation therapy is a treatment where the doctor uses various forms of radiation to treat and destroy cancerous cells safely and effectively. The prime goals of radiation therapy are,

  • Destroy tumours which have not yet spread to other parts of your body.
  • Minimize the risk that cancer will return after your surgery or chemotherapy
  • Shrink the size of the tumour which are interfering with your life
  • Relieve pain by lessening the size of your tumour.


What are the different types of radiation?

Depending on the location, size and type of cancer, you may receive one or a combination of treatment methods. Your specialist doctor will decide which treatments are best for you. Radiation therapy can be two types and they are external and internal radiation therapy.

External beam radiation therapy: In an external beam radiation therapy, a beam of radiation is directed through the skin to cancer and the immediate surrounding area. This can destroy or kill the main tumour and its nearby cells. Generally, treatments are given five days a week. During this treatment, radiation is generated by a machine called a linear accelerator. The linear accelerator or linac can produce high-intensity X-rays and electrons for the treatment of your cancer.

Types of external beam radiation therapy:

Now, we are going to discuss several types of external beam radiation therapy.

  • Three-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy (3D-CRT)

Three-dimensional radiation therapy or 3D-CRT uses computers and special imaging techniques to show the size, shape and location of the tumour. Computer-assisted tomography (CT or CAT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MR or MRI scans) and/or positron emission tomography (PET scans) are used to create detailed pictures of the tumour and surrounding areas. Your oncologist can then precisely tailor the radiation beams depending on the size and shape of your tumour with multi-leaf collimators.

  • Intensity-modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy or IMRT is a specialized form of 3D-CRT which allows radiation to be more exactly shaped to fit the tumour.

  • Proton Beam Therapy

This kind of external beam radiation therapy uses protons (instead of X-rays) to treat certain types of cancer and other diseases. But this therapy is available only at some specialized centres in the country.

  • Neutron Beam Therapy

This therapy uses neutrons to kill and treat certain tumours which are radioresistant. Neutrons have a greater biologic impact on cells than protons and x-rays.

  • Stereotactic Radiotherapy

In this therapy, your oncologist precisely focuses beams of radiation to destroy certain types of tumours. Since the beam is precise, only fewer side cells are affected by the radiation.

Internal radiation therapy or Brachytherapy

In internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy, radioactive material is placed into a tumour or its surrounding tissue. Because the radiation sources are placed so close to the tumour, your oncologist can deliver a high dose of radiation directly to the cancerous cells.

Is radiation therapy safe?

Radiation therapy is useful and safe in treating patients with cancer for more than 100 years. Before starting the process, your radiation team will customize the entire plan so that you receive safe and accurate treatment. The team members will check and re-check your plan throughout the treatment. Special computers are also used to monitor and double-check the treatment machines. If you get external beam radiation therapy, you will not be radioactive after treatment because the radiation doesn’t stay in your body. But if you receive brachytherapy, then tiny radioactive sources will be implanted inside your body (in the tumour or the tissue surrounding the tumour), either temporarily or permanently. Your doctor will tell you whether you need to follow any special precautions or not after the treatment.

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