With the discovery of the X-ray by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen (A German physicist), the powerful rays were being used effectively in treating cancer.
However, today, you can get treated successfully and effectively, with very little side effects and protecting normal tissue, by means of radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy is one of the treatments used to treat cancer. It can be used as a single treatment or along with other types of treatment, mostly surgery or chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is also known as radiotherapy. More than half of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment.
Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the division and growth of abnormal cells uncontrollably. It can spread from its own site to the nearby parts of the body.
Radiation therapy in high-doses kills these cancer cells and keeps them from growing and reproducing, because the cancer cells grow and divide more quickly than normal cells around them.
Even the normal cells are also affected, but most of these cells get recuperate with the radiation effects.
The radiation can be given to you (cancer patient) either externally by means of external beam radiation, or through internal radiation, also called brachytherapy.
Today, with new researches, it is found that the special cells called monoclonal antibodies, within your body, can be used to transmit radiation therapy directly to the cancer site.
The External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) uses high-energy rays or particles to kill cancer cells and/or slow the rate of cell growth and reproduction. A focused beam of radiation will be transmitted from special machines outside your body.
The special machines that transmit these radiations are linear accelerators, cobalt machines, or orthovoltage x-ray machines. These machines deliver very intense treatments with pinpoint accuracy.
Besides, X-rays and Gamma rays are the most common types of radiation used for treating cancer. The highest priority will be given to your (patient’s) safety while using these machines.
On the other hand, internal radiation therapy uses small radioactive substances (implants) such as cesium, iridium, and iodine that are placed near or into cancerous cells within your body.
The implants may be permanent or temporary. These implants can be placed within the tumor, called intracavitary or straight into the cancerous area, called interstitial.
As said above, radiation therapy can be used to treat cancers. However, it can help eliminate some of the following cancers:
Cancers of Oral cavity; Tongue and lip cancers; Larynx and nasal cavity cancers, Skin cancers, Small-cell lung cancer
On the other hand, the types of cancers that usually don’t react to radiation therapy are thyroid cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, connective tissue sarcomas, lung cancers, bladder and prostate cancer.
Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy
Generally, the cancer patients receiving radiation therapy experience some side effects in the treated areas. The most common short-term effects of radiation therapy include:
- Redness of the skin
- Low blood counts
- Hair loss in the treated area
- Salivary glands damages
- Nausea and vomiting
- Damage of scar tissue
Fighting cancer can be a tough battle and hair loss is one of the worst side effects. In some cases patients have recovered more hair with hair transplant surgery.