Radiotherapy is one form of treatment for cancer that is used alone or in combination with chemotherapy to kill a cancerous tumor or shrink the tumor making it easier to remove surgically. There are three types of radiotherapy that may be used depending on the type and location of cancer.
External radiation a common type of radiotherapy. Before therapy starts, measurements need to be taken to increase the preciseness of treatment and minimize irritation of surrounding tissue. Once the measurements are done, these measurements will be used during the actual treatment. The patient lies on a motorized table and enters the machine. Technicians will line up infrared markers to make sure the patient is lying in the precise, predetermined, position. Once the patient is in the targeted location, radiation treatment can begin. The patient does not feel the radiation. A radiation session usually lasts just a few minutes and you can go home shortly afterward.
Internal radiation is often more targeted, depending on the specific form of radiation treatment. During internal radiation, you will be given a liquid or solid particle, such as pellets. Liquid radiation is more systemic because the liquid will be given in the form of a beverage or injected directly into a vein. Solid internal radiation, such as pellets, are placed near the site of the tumor. These pellets slowly emit radiation to help eradicate the tumor. Internal radiation may be used in breast cancer or in cancers of the female reproductive organs. During the process, pellets may be inserted vaginally or surgically near the tumor.
Proton therapy is a special form of external radiation that uses protons. One of the major reasons proton therapy is unique is it tends to spare healthy tissue. This occurs because there is less radiation that spreads beyond the path of the beam. Proton therapy is more commonly used in certain types of cancer, such as prostate cancer or cancerous tumors located at the base of the skull. Since proton therapy is more specific, it can minimize common side effects found in radiation treatment of certain cancers. For example, in prostate cancer, there can be a significant risk of damage to surrounding tissues that are responsible for sexual performance and the urinary system.
Radiotherapy is a common form of treatment that is used in several types of cancers. One of the advantages of different forms of radiotherapy is it is a more targeted treatment that may kill cancerous tumors or shrink them. Talk with your doctor to learn more about radiation treatment for cancer.