According to the Cancer Council, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Australia. Every year, around 145,000 cancer cases are diagnosed, and it is estimated that the figures will increase to 150,000 in 2020.
In 2016 alone, around 679 Australians died from non-melanoma skin cancer. Radiation Therapy is beneficial in such cases. Click here to get more details on radiation therapy.
What is Radiation Therapy?
The radiation oncologist or radiation physicist conducts this therapy on patients. Radiation therapy uses high-energy waves or particles, such as electron beams, protons, X-rays, or gamma rays, to damage and destroy the cancerous cells.
The DNA inside the cells is broken down by radiation into smaller parts. The breaks and division of these cells cause them to die.
Is it Different from Chemotherapy?
In chemotherapy, the medicinal drugs expose your entire body to cancer-fighting treatment. On the other hand, radiation therapy is a local treatment, which means it aims and affects only the body's tumorous area.
Radiation therapy is planned in a fashion where it destroys only the malignant cells and does little harm to other healthy cells. During the treatment, your body gets enough time to repair the healthy cells.
Types of Radiation Therapy
External Beam Radiation: It is given during outpatient visits to the treatment centre or the hospital. This treatment process involves using a machine that directs high-energy rays from outside the body into the tumour. The treatment continues for a few days to several weeks. A patient receiving external radiation is not radioactive and is not required to follow special safety precautions at home.
Internal Radiation: Also known as Brachytherapy, this process involves a radioactive source placed in the tumorous region. With some types of brachytherapy, radioactive seeds or source are left in the body to work. The source is placed for a couple of days or weeks, and then it is removed. A person undergoing this therapy has to follow some radiation safety guidelines. Once the source is removed, the person is no longer radioactive.
Systemic Radiation: Here, the radiation oncologist gives medicines that are taken orally or administered intravenously. These drugs then travel throughout the body. The doctors advise following radiation safety guidelines for several weeks after this therapy.
Goals of Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is prescribed upon studying how many malignant cells are in your body. Click here to understand how radiation therapy works. The primary goal of radiation therapy is to cure or shrink early-stage cancer. Some cancers are sensitive to radiation. If you start radiation therapy on the detection of first-stage cancer, the cancerous cells can shrink or go away completely.
The other radiation therapy goals are to stop recurring cancer, treat symptoms caused by advanced cancer, and treat conditions that have returned. In some cases, the cancers do not cure completely, but the patient can get relief from the pain. Palliative radiation helps in treating the symptoms caused by advanced cancer.