Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy or x-ray therapy) uses special kinds of energy waves or particles (ionizing radiation) to fight many types of cancer. Radiation kills cancer cells by destroying their DNA, which interrupts their ability to reproduce. Normal cells can recover from radiation easily.
Radiation therapy has two goals: to control the growth of the tumor and to do so while minimizing exposure to the surrounding normal, healthy tissue. The kind of radiation therapy may differ depending on the type and location of the cancer. Each case is unique and your physician is the best person to decide on the suitability of radiation therapy for your treatment.
Usually patients find that Radiotherapy sessions have a minimal effect on their daily schedules. Treatment sessions are given on an outpatient basis, and typically take 30 to 60 minutes.
It can be used:
- To treat a cancer and prevent a recurrence by eliminating a tumor
- As a palliative treatment when curing the cancer is not possible (It is intended to relieve pain,
pressure and other symptoms by shrinking the tumor),
- Before surgery: to shrink the tumor
- After surgery: to treat any remaining cancer cells
- In combination with chemotherapy treatment
Possible Side Effects
With radiation therapy, serious side effects can occur and are usually caused by damage to normal cells during the course of treatment. Side effects can develop over the course of your treatment. They can be minor or severe, and depend on the size and location of the tumor, disease state, your general medical condition, and the treatment technique that is used.
- Skin irritation (dryness, itching, peeling, or blistering) or damage to the skin near the treatment site
- Fatigue:feeling slightly worn out or experiencing severe exhaustion
Some side effects are usually specific to the type of cancer being treated, such as hair loss or sore throat when the head and neck region is treated, or urinary problems when the lower abdomen is treated.