Even up to this day, with all the technological advances that surround us, explaining how Radiation Oncology works in treating cancer is a bit complex but not possible. But the good thing is that it has proven to be effective and reliable in the past few decades.
It has given a ray of hope to people diagnosed with cancer, and radiation oncologists consider it as a quicker, useful and accurate way of treating cancer especially when used in conjunction with chemotherapy and surgery.
Treatment given using Radiation Oncology is referred to as Radiotherapy or Radiation therapy. The American Cancer Society reports that 60% of people diagnosed with cancer are given this radiation therapy.
Although it is not an outright cure of cancer, to a certain degree, it acts as an antidote.
With that said, let’s now delve deep into Radiation Oncology details.
What exactly is Radiation Oncology?
Radiation Oncology can be defined as a non-invasive medical specialty that involves the use of high doses of radiation to treat cancer by killing its cells or slowing their growth. These high doses also help to relieve cancer pain, alleviate cancer symptoms and shrink tumors to enable surgery.
Of the two main types of radiotherapy, the most common is external-beam, which involves delivering high doses of radiation using a machine outside the body. The rarely used type is known as internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy. It involves the placement of radioactive sources, temporary or permanently, in the location of the tumor.
There are quite a number of factors that are considered when a Cancer Care team decides on the type of radiotherapy that a patient will receive. Below are some of them:
- The overall health of the patient.
- Age and medical history of the patient.
- The cancer type
- The tumor size
- The location of the tumor
- The proximity of the tumor to the normal body cells.
- Whether the patient will require a different type of cancer treatment.
The practice of radiation oncology involves three different medical professionals: Radiation Oncologists, Radiation Oncology Medical Physicists, and Radiation Therapists.
Types of Cancer that Are Treated with Radiation Therapy?
Yes, radiation therapy can treat cancer if the disease is at its first stages. Some people diagnosed with cancer only require radiation therapy, while some will have to undergo other treatments method. Below is a list of all cancer conditions that respond positively to radiation therapy.
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Bone cancer
- Brain tumor
- Acoustic neuroma
- Arteriovenous malformations
- Breast cancer
- Metastatic brain cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Head and neck cancers
- Soft tissues sarcoma
- Spinal cord tumors
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Paranasal sinus cancer
What are the risks of Radiation Oncology?
Regardless of all the benefits that come with radiation oncology, this medical specialty is not without side effects. Not all possible radiotherapy risks are instant. Some may appear after a few weeks or months. These risks differ depending on the overall health of the patient being treated, the body part affected, the cancer type and the radiation dosage being used.
As highlighted earlier, nearby healthy cells can also be affected by radiation therapy. But the great news is there are protective drugs that help non-cancerous cells to recover swiftly after being exposed to radiotherapy.
Coming from radiation therapy, patients may feel physical or mental fatigue. Some patients will have to take some days off due to this tiredness, which is like no other. However, this feeling is not universal, some patients may not even feel exhausted.
There is a possibility of being diagnosed with another cancer due to radiation therapy. Although the chances are slim, this is something that you have to think about. In most situations, this risk is much lower than the benefits of killing cancer cells.
So, in any case, if your cancer care team recommends that you receive radiation therapy, it’s because they know that the advantage outweighs the possible risks. However, the final decision lies with the patient.
How does Radiation therapy work against cancer?
Radiation therapy works by releasing high energy radiation waves towards the cancerous cells in the patient’s body. The waves fracture the cells’ DNA, therefore, making them feeble in the process.
Breaking the DNA of the cancer-affected cells is one of the ways that radiation therapy treats cancer, the other possibility is that it causes the formation of active damaging molecules. In most cases, cancer cells are not able to survive such an attack launched against them.
As this happens, normal cells which are near the targeted cells may be caught in the cross-fire and be affected by radiation therapy. However, unlike the cancer cells, the normal cells quickly recover through the use of protective drugs and in no time, they will be back in shape.
For the treatment to have better chances of success, the patient will have to undergo several 15 minutes sessions of radiotherapy in a couple of weeks. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, the schedule can change.
Opportunities in radiation oncology at Acıbadem Hospital.
World over, the radiation oncology technology is still advancing, and healthcare institutions such as Turkey’s Acibadem Hospital Group have taken a leading role in investing in clinical and laboratory research that can help alleviate the problems caused by cancer.
Currently, the advanced radiation oncology equipment used at the Acibadem Hospitals has, for long benefited many patients diagnosed with cancer. The equipment has fewer risks, provides shorter treatments, and the treatment success rate has been on the rise. With the research still ongoing and promising, a cancer-free world might be around the corner.
This content is created and reviewed by Flymedi Medical Editors on June 20, 2019.