With recent advances in Treatment of cancer, the chances of survival in cancer patients have improved drastically. With advanced technologies, newer surgical techniques, newer chemotherapy drugs and Radiotherapy, now many cancers can be considered as treatable.
There is marked an increase in overall survival rate and improved quality of life for cancer patients.
WHAT IS RADIOTHERAPY?
In Radiotherapy we use high energy radiations like X rays, Gamma rays or some charged particles. These, when directed towards a tumour, will destroy the cancer cells and also halt generation of new tumour cells.
This leads to halting the progress of tumour size and at the same time helps to shrink the size of a tumour.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF RADIOTHERAPIES?
There are various types of Radiotherapies like External beam radiation therapy, Brachytherapy or Systemic Radiation Therapy depending upon the source of radioactive materials.
In External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) the source of radioactive material is outside body and high energy radiation is delivered by the machine outside the body.
In Brachytherapy, the radioactive material is inserted into the body close to a tumour. This radioactive substance will emit the high energy radiation in the surrounding area and will destroy tumour cells.
In systematic radiation therapy, the radioactive material in injected intravenous, so that it transverse through the blood vessels and get accumulated in the area where there is rapid growth or tumour tissue which is more vascular like in case of Thyroid cancer radioactive iodine is given intravenously.
The patients suffering from cancer receive the radiation therapy at some stage of treatment, in some form mentioned above. The radiation therapy use is increasing with more success as compared to the patients who do not use the radiotherapy.
WHEN TO USE RADIOTHERAPY?
The radiotherapy is used with various intentions depending upon the stage of cancer and patient’s tolerance and response to therapy. It is used as curative in some cases where radiotherapy is targeted to cure illness.
It can be used as adjuvant therapy where it is used along with other treatment modalities like surgery or chemotherapy. It can be used in some cases as the treatment modality to prevent recurrence of a tumour after operation or chemotherapy.
In advanced cancer stages or inoperable tumours, it may be used as palliative treatment to relieve pain and just to improve the quality of life.
HOW TO USE RADIOTHERAPY?
First, the team of doctors will plan the radiotherapy considering various factors like type of cancer, stage of cancer, the age of the patient, any co-morbidities, tumour location, and presence of radiosensitive tissues like eyes near a tumour.
Once finalized with a decision on the use of radiotherapy, by experienced doctors there will be stimulation phase and use of sophisticated machines to determine the exact location and size of a tumour with angles and delivery of high energy radiations. The protective moulds will be prepared to protect vital organs like head.
After this, with use of sophisticated computers treatment plan will be made which will include an exact dose of radiations and angles at which radiation needs to be given.
This plan will be approved by a radiation oncologist and the radiation is given on the schedule made for the patient. The doctors will monitor the entire course of treatment.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF RADIOTHERAPY?
The disadvantage of radiotherapy is that it can destroy the normal cells of the body along with the tumour cells and can lead to some side effects. So use has to be specific and the dose should be monitored in highly specialized centres by trained doctors in radiotherapy.
Side effects are classified into two types:
i) Acute: which are seen immediately during treatment like dermatitis or
ii) Chronic: which can be seen 6 months to 1 year after treatment.
Even though radiotherapy has achieved cure in some cases of cancer and also improved the quality of life for cancer patients, we need to do more research on this to have curative modality for all cancer in near future.
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