Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, is a common treatment for cancer. It uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy is a localized treatment, meaning it targets the cancer cells in a specific area of the body. In this article, we will explore what radiation therapy is, how it works, and the side effects that can occur.
Introduction: What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. The radiation damages the DNA of the cancer cells, which prevents them from multiplying and growing. Radiation therapy can be used as a primary treatment for cancer, meaning it is the main treatment used to destroy the cancer cells. It can also be used in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery, to improve the effectiveness of the overall treatment.
How Does Radiation Therapy Work?
Radiation therapy works by damaging the DNA of cancer cells, which prevents them from multiplying and growing. The radiation can be delivered in two ways: external beam radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy.
External beam radiation therapy involves a machine that delivers a high-energy radiation beam to the area of the body where the cancer is located. The radiation beam can be shaped to target the cancer cells and spare nearby healthy tissue.
Internal radiation therapy, also known as brachytherapy, involves the placement of radioactive material directly into or near the cancerous area. The radiation is delivered directly to the cancer cells, which reduces the amount of radiation that healthy tissue receives.
Side Effects of Radiation Therapy
While radiation therapy can be an effective treatment for cancer, it can also cause side effects. The side effects of radiation therapy depend on the type of radiation therapy used, the location of the cancer, and the amount of radiation delivered.
Common side effects of radiation therapy include:
- Fatigue – Radiation therapy can cause fatigue, which is a feeling of extreme tiredness.
- Skin changes – Radiation therapy can cause skin changes, such as redness, itching, and peeling.
- Nausea and vomiting – Radiation therapy can cause nausea and vomiting, which can be managed with medication.
- Hair loss – Radiation therapy can cause hair loss in the area being treated.
- Mouth and throat problems – Radiation therapy can cause mouth and throat problems, such as dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, and mouth sores.
- Sexual side effects – Radiation therapy can cause sexual side effects, such as erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness.
Radiation therapy is a common cancer treatment that uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It can be used as a primary treatment or in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery. While radiation therapy can be effective in treating cancer, it can also cause side effects, which can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. If you are considering radiation therapy as a treatment option, it is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits with your healthcare provider.
- How long does radiation therapy last? Radiation therapy typically lasts for several weeks, with treatment sessions scheduled several times per week.
- Is radiation therapy painful? Radiation therapy itself is painless, but it can cause side effects that can be uncomfortable.
- Will I be radioactive after radiation therapy? No, you will not be radioactive after radiation therapy. The radiation is delivered externally or internally and does not remain in the body.
- Can I work during radiation therapy? Most people are able to continue working during radiation therapy, although some may need to take time off to manage side effects.
- Is radiation therapy safe? Radiation therapy is generally safe, although it does carry some risks. The potential benefits and risks should be discussed with your healthcare provider before starting treatment