Published on: Mon Dec 2017
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy involves the use of high energy radiation to kill or shrink tumors. These radiations are typically in the form of x-rays, gamma rays, protons, and neutrons. When Radiation waves are generated from a machine, it is called as external-beam radiation therapy. If radiation waves are emitted from a radioactive material placed inside the body near cancerous cells, it is called internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy.
How does radiation therapy kill cancer cells?
When the DNA of a cancer cell is damaged beyond repair, the cells stop multiplying and die. Radiation therapy damages DNA of cancer cells. Sometimes Radiation therapy also creates charged particles (free radicals) within the cells that go on to damage the DNA.
Does Radiation therapy kill only cancer cells?
Radiation therapy affects both cancerous and healthy cells, leading to side effects. Doctors prescribing radiation therapy take potential damage to normal cells and their recovery into account when planning a course of radiation therapy.
What factors determine the type of radiation therapy given to a patient?
The following factors are taken into account by a radiation oncologist while prescribing radiation therapy:
- Type of cancer
- Size of the cancer tumor
- Location of the tumor in the body
- How deep is the tumor (i.e. how far the radiation needs to travel)?
- Patients general health, medical condition and medical history
- Goal of the radiotherapy and other types of cancer treatment for the patient
Why is radiation therapy given in many small doses?
Radiation therapy is given in fractions. One dose (a single fraction) of the total planned dose is given in a hospital / treatment centre for up to 5 days a week for several weeks. There are two main reasons for this approach.
- Minimize damage to the cell tissue.
- Increase the likelihood that cancer cells are exposed to radiation when they are most vulnerable
Read more about other treatment approaches at the below link:
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