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Radiotherapy for Cancer: Here’s What You Need to Know! A Complete Guide

B
Bajaj Finserv Health
January 7th, 2022
6 mins read

Key Takeaways

  • Radiotherapies use high radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors
  • Radiotherapy for cancer helps relieve the symptoms and stop the spread
  • For external beam radiation therapy, you need to lie under a large machine

Radiotherapies is an effective cancer treatment, where doctors use high radiation doses to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors [1]. IMRT radiotherapy is an advanced type of radiation therapy used in treating cancer and noncancerous tumors. The procedure damages cancerous cells by destroying the genetic material responsible for controlling how these cells grow and divide.

Radiotherapy is a part of treatment goals to prevent the spread of cancer. It relieves symptoms and can even enhance the effectiveness of surgery. In fact, you may have doubts like, ‘is radiotherapy just for cancer?’ or ‘what exactly does radiotherapy do?’. For answers to these questions and more, read on. 

Additional Read: Nasopharyngeal Cancer: What Are Its Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatments?

Types of Radiation Therapy

External Beam Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy, also known as teletherapy, is the most common radiation treatment for cancer patients [2]. The machine sends radiation to the cancer site. The process uses a large noisy machine that moves around you without touching. It sends radiation to the affected part of your body from various directions. This local treatment targets a specific part of your body. For instance, if you have lung cancer, radiation therapy will only involve your chest and not the whole body.

Internal Radiation Therapy

Internal radiation therapy is another type of therapy where a solid or liquid source of radiation is put inside your body. It has several types. Brachytherapy is an internal radiation therapy where a solid source containing radiation is implanted in or near the affected area of your body. These implants may include the following:

  • Seeds
  • Ribbons
  • Tubes
  • Wires
  • Pellets
  • Capsules

The sources implanted give off radiation for a while. Brachytherapy is also a local treatment for a specific body part like external beam radiation therapy.

When a liquid source gets used in internal radiation therapy, it is known as systemic radiation. The liquid source travels throughout the body to find and kill cancer cells. It requires the patient to swallow a radioactive substance. Some doctors may inject the radioactive substance into your vein. With the radioactive substance in the body, fluids like urine, sweat, and saliva will give off radiation for some time.

radiotherapy for cancer

How Does Radiation Therapy for Cancer Work?

Radiotherapy for cancer may be advised to you by your doctor during the cancer treatment for various reasons. It may be done as the primary treatment or used in combination with other treatments like chemotherapy.

A high dose of radiation kills cancer cells or damages their DNA to slow down their growth. The cancer cells with damaged DNA stop dividing and perish. These dead cells are then broken down and removed by your body. Radiotherapies do not kill cancer cells instantly. It takes several days or weeks for the DNA to get damaged enough and for the cancer cells to die. Even after the end of radiation therapy, the cancer cells keep dying for weeks or months.

Chemotherapy vs. radiotherapy is a common query and is simple to understand. Radiotherapy is related to treatment with radiation. With chemotherapy, doctors use special drugs to shrink or destroy cancer cells.

What Are the Types of Cancer Radiotherapies Treat?

Doctors use external beam radiation therapy for breast cancer and others like: 

  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Cancers of the head or neck 

Internal radiation therapy is mostly used to treat:

  • Cervix cancer 
  • Vaginal cancer 
  • Uterus cancer 
  • Rectum cancer
  • Eye cancer

It is also used in the treatment of prostate, breast, lung, bladder, and skin cancers. Radioactive iodine therapy for thyroid cancer is a type of systemic radiation therapy. Similarly, targeted radionuclide therapy treats advanced prostate cancer or gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumor [3].

How Much Does Radiotherapy Cost in India?

The radiation therapy cost can range anywhere between Rs.30,000 and Rs.20,00,000 in India. The exact treatment cost depends on the type of cancer and the technique used for radiation therapy. The prices may also differ based on hospitals and the cities in which you seek treatment.

What Is the Procedure of Radiotherapy?

For external beam radiation therapy, you need to lie down under a large machine. The therapist will position you and go to a separate room. You must stay still during the process. The machine will make whirring and clicking noises. You can talk with the therapist through a speaker system in the room. For brachytherapy or internal radiation therapy, a catheter or an applicator is used to insert the radioactive implant. The doctor will place the radioactive material inside it. 

Additional Read: Uterine Cancer: What Are the 2 Types and How are They Diagnosed and Treated?

Radiotherapies provide highly effective cancer treatment. Do not ignore any signs of cancer and get immediate medical attention. book an online doctor consultation or a lab test on Bajaj Finserv Health. Consult with highly qualified health professionals and take precautionary measures when it comes to your health.

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