Cancer radiation treatments utilize a high energy beam to kill cancer cells. X-rays are the most common form of power used, but other types, such as protons, are used as well. Brachytherapy is a type of cancer treatment where the radiation is placed inside the body rather than being directed by a beam from a machine.
Radiation is often used in combination with chemotherapy or surgery. It is most effective when the cancer is localized in a specific area of the body. It works by destroying the DNA in a cell that tells it how to grow and divide. Radiation treatments kill both healthy and cancerous cells, but care is taken to kill as few healthy and normal cells as possible. Most types of cancer can be treated with radiation. In fact, nearly half of all patients with the disease receive radiation treatments.
Cancer radiation treatments play several roles in the fight against cancer. They can be used as a primary means of curing the disease. Radiation can be given to shrink a tumor so surgical removal is easier. It is given after surgery to kill stray cells left behind. Radiation treatments are also used in combination with chemotherapy as part of a treatment plan to rid the body of cancer cells. In advanced cases of the disease, radiation treatments can be used to relieve symptoms caused by the tumor such as pain or intestinal blockage.
Cancer radiation treatments require careful planning. Doctors must determine the precise amount of radiation that will destroy the cancer with the least amount of harm to healthy tissue. In addition, planning the administration of the radiation beam is important so the beam is focused in the ideal location.
Cancer radiation treatments are generally spread out over a period of several weeks to minimize damage to normal cells. They can be administered on an outpatient basis; an individual session lasts from ten to thirty minutes.
Although the radiation treatments themselves are painless, they can cause some unpleasant side effects. It can also be very uncomfortable to stay in one position for as long as the treatment takes. Some of the most common side effects are skin irritation and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling of the tissues can also occur. Since radiation is a known cause of cancer, there is also a slight risk of developing a secondary cancer in ten to twenty years after treatment. Radiation plays an important role in the treatment of cancer today. In many cases, the potential for recovery far outweighs the risks and side effects that may occur.