Sunday, January 7, 2024

How does radiation therapy work in treating cancer?

What is radiotherapy?

Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, is a common treatment modality used to treat cancer. It involves the use of high-energy radiation to target and destroy cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues.

overview of radiation therapy:

Here's an overview of how radiation therapy works:

1. Delivery of radiation:

Radiation therapy can be delivered externally or internally, depending on the type and location of the cancer. External beam radiation therapy is the most common form and involves directing radiation beams from a machine outside the body towards the tumor. Internal radiation therapy, also called brachytherapy, involves placing a radiation source directly into or near the tumor.

2. Treatment planning:

Before initiating radiation therapy, the radiation oncologist works closely with a team of medical professionals to develop an individualized treatment plan. This includes determining the optimal radiation dose, the number of treatment sessions (fractions), and the precise target area to be treated. Advanced imaging techniques, such as CT, MRI, or PET scans, are used to precisely map the tumor and surrounding structures.

3. Administering the treatment:

During each radiation therapy session, the patient lies on a treatment table, and the radiation therapist positions them accurately. The radiation machine delivers the prescribed dose of radiation to the targeted area. The process is painless and typically lasts only a few minutes. The patient may need to undergo multiple treatment sessions over several weeks, depending on the type and stage of cancer.

4. Mechanisms of action:

Radiation damages cancer cells by causing breaks in their DNA, which can interfere with their ability to grow and divide. Cancer cells are generally less able to repair DNA damage compared to healthy cells. Over time, the accumulated damage can lead to the death of cancer cells. Normal cells near the tumor can also be affected by radiation, but they have a greater ability to repair themselves and recover from the damage.

5. Fractionation:

Radiation therapy is often administered in multiple fractions (smaller doses) over several weeks. Fractionation allows healthy cells to recover between treatments while maintaining the effectiveness of treatment. It also helps minimize side effects by allowing normal tissues to repair themselves.

6. Side effects:

Radiation therapy can cause side effects, which can vary depending on the treated area. Common side effects may include fatigue, skin changes (such as redness or sensitivity), hair loss in the treated area, and temporary or long-term changes in the functioning of nearby organs. Side effects are typically temporary and resolve after treatment ends.

Parallel treatments:

Radiation therapy is often used in combination with other cancer treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy, to achieve the best possible outcome. The decision to use radiation therapy, as well as the specific treatment plan, is determined based on factors such as cancer type, stage, location, and the patient's overall health.

It's important to discuss the potential benefits, risks, and side effects of radiation therapy with the healthcare team to make informed decisions about treatment.