Patient Care > Treatments

Radiation Therapy

Patient Care > Treatments

Radiation Therapy

As one of the main treatments for cancer, radiation therapy is also known as radiotherapy. You can lessen some of the stress associated with radiation therapy by being prepared and understanding the treatment. Please get in touch with your oncologist, doctor, or nurse if you have questions regarding your treatment.

As a form of radiation therapy, X-rays destroy or injure cancer cells to prevent them from multiplying. Primary cancer or advanced cancer can be treated with radiation therapy.

Additionally, it may reduce the cancer’s size and relieve pain, discomfort, and other associated symptoms.

The use of radiation therapy may be the primary treatment or may be used to assist another treatment. It is possible to perform adjuvant radiation therapy to shrink cancer before or after surgery to stop the growth of any remaining cancer cells. Occasionally, it is used in conjunction with chemotherapy.

There are several purposes for radiation therapy, including:

  • Cure
    Radiation therapy alone or combined with other treatments may effectively treat certain cancers.
  • Control
    The use of radiation therapy may be able to control some cancers by reducing their size or preventing their spread.
  • Providing support for other treatments
    The use of radiation therapy can enhance the effectiveness of other treatments before or after they are administered.
  • Symptomatic relief
    If a cure is not possible, radiation therapy may be used to reduce cancer symptoms and prolong a high quality of life.

Radiation therapy can be delivered either externally (external beam) or internally (brachytherapy). External beam radiation therapy involves using a machine that directs radiation at cancer and surrounding tissues. Internal radiation therapy consists of the placement of radioactive material in thin tubes near the cancerous tissue in your body.

In most cases, radiation therapy is administered in private clinics or hospitals. Nuclear medicine specialists or radiation therapists provide treatment. Radiation oncologists are the leading medical specialists responsible for treating radiation therapy patients.

You will receive treatment based on the type of cancer, where it is located, its size, your general health, and any previous cancer treatments you have received. Some patients require only one treatment, while others require radiation therapy five days a week for several weeks. During internal radiation therapy, implants may be left in place for a few minutes, one to six days, or permanently.

Radiation therapy external to the body is not harmful. Radiation cannot be seen or smelled, but a buzzing sound may be heard when the machine operates. There will be no radioactivity associated with you. It is safe to have contact with other people during treatment and afterwards, including pregnant women and children.

While you may feel discomfort from the implant during internal radiation therapy, you should not experience any severe pain or symptoms of illness. You may experience radiation outside your body while your radioactive implant is in place. When your implant is in place, there will be a limit on the number of visitors.

Depending on the area of your body being treated, you may experience side effects. The following are possible side effects:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Dry, red or itchy skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Digestive problems
  • Hair loss
  • Dry or sore throat or mouth
  • Cough or shortness of breath

Most side effects can be managed and gradually disappear once your treatment is complete. Most side effects will disappear over time. In some cases, however, the side effects may be permanent, while in others, they may not be apparent until after treatment has been completed.

The radiation oncologist may change the treatment or prescribe a break if the side effects are severe. If the doctor believes that pausing treatment could negatively affect how well it works, a break may not be possible.

Once treatment has been completed, you will have regular check-ups with your doctor. You may undergo scans or tests during your physical examination to determine whether the cancer has responded to treatment. Before you can determine the full benefits of radiation therapy, it may take some time after your treatment.

Since cancer cells continue to die for weeks or months after treatment ends, your medical team will not be able to provide you with progress updates throughout treatment. However, they may be able to assist you in managing any side effects you may experience.

In the case of palliative radiation therapy, the relief of symptoms indicates that the treatment has been successful. It may take a few days or weeks for this to be completed.

Radiation therapy near your reproductive organs can temporarily or permanently affect your fertility. It would be best if you discussed this possibility with your doctor or specialist. Please get in touch with your physician if you have any concerns or questions.

You will not be able to receive radiation therapy if you are expecting, as radiation can harm a developing child. During treatment, it is critical that you do not become pregnant. Radiation therapy can damage sperm, you and your partner should use contraception while receiving radiation therapy and for approximately six months afterwards. You can obtain more information about radiation therapy and pregnancy from your physician.

Some people can continue working during radiation therapy treatment, while others may need to reduce their hours or take time off work. Depending on the type of radiation therapy you receive, how you feel during treatment, and the kind of work you perform, you may be able to function more or less. Your treatment team’s goal is to encourage you to be as active as possible. They will be available to answer your questions regarding working during treatment.

Since radiation does not remain in your body during or after external radiation therapy, you will not become radioactive. Taking precautions with bodily fluids is not necessary, and it is safe to be around family, friends, children, and pregnant women.

You will likely be treated by a team of health professionals with experience caring for patients receiving radiation therapy. Other health professionals who specialise in your cancer type may also be consulted.

The following may be included:

  • Radiation oncologist
  • Radiation therapist
  • Medical physicist
  • Radiation oncology nurses
  • Dietitian
  • Social worker/psychologist
  • Physiotherapist/occupational therapis