At high doses, radiation therapy kills cancer cells or slows their growth by damaging their DNA. Cancer cells whose DNA is damaged beyond repair stop dividing or die.
It takes days or weeks of treatment before DNA is damaged enough for cancer cells to die. Then, cancer cells keep dying for weeks or months after radiation therapy ends.
There are two main types of radiation therapy, external beam and internal. It does not touch you, but can move around you, sending radiation to a part of your body from many directions.
External beam radiation therapy is a local treatment, which means it treats a specific part of your body. Internal radiation therapy with a solid source is called brachytherapy.
In this type of treatment, seeds, ribbons, or capsules that contain a radiation source are placed in your body, in or near the tumor. Like external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy is a local treatment and treats only a specific part of your body.
Systemic means that the treatment travels in the blood to tissues throughout your body, seeking out and killing cancer cells. You receive systemic radiation therapy by swallowing, through a vein via an IV line, or through an injection.
Pain from cancer that has spread to the bone can be treated with systemic radiation therapy drugs called radio pharmaceuticals. External beam radiation therapy is used to treat many types of cancer.
Brachytherapy is most often used to treat cancers of the head and neck, breast, cervix, prostate, and eye. A systemic radiation therapy called radioactive iodine, or I-131, is most often used to treat certain types of thyroid cancer.
But, most often, you will have radiation therapy with other cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. With this technique, doctors can more easily protect nearby normal tissues from radiation.
There is a limit to the amount of radiation an area of your body can safely receive over the course of your lifetime. Radiation not only kills or slows the growth of cancer cells, it can also affect nearby healthy cells.
It uses complex machines and involves the services of many health care providers. To learn more, talk with the business office at the clinic or hospital where you go for treatment.
Radiation can cause side effects that make it hard to eat, such as nausea, mouth sores, and throat problems called esophagitis. Since your body uses a lot of energy to heal during radiation therapy, it is important that you eat enough calories and protein to maintain your weight during treatment.
If you would like to reproduce some or all of this content, see Reuse of NCI Information for guidance about copyright and permissions. By combining X -rays with nanoparticles, a team of researchers from the Center for Landscape Photonics (CBP) in Australia has found a way of combating cancer deep inside the body in this way using a simple chemical.
When activated by visible of near-infrared light, the material creates short-lived, highly-activated molecular by-products that are toxic to the malignant cells. Where the CBP therapy differs is in using X -rays beamed at cerium fluoride (CeF3) nanoparticles, which are induced to conglomerate around the cancer cells.
When struck by X -rays, the cerium fluoride releases singlet oxygen in quantities that, for the first time, can be accurately measured. This means that not only is the method potentially more effective than more conventional photodynamic therapy, but by using X -rays the diagnosis and treatment can reach deep inside the body instead of in the shallow tissues that longer wavelengths of light are restricted to.
“What we've shown through our measurements is the applicability of the photodynamic therapy approach to effectively treat tumors within,” says Era Golds, Deputy Director of the CBP. “The beauty of this type of treatment is that it uses different biological pathways to kill cells as compared to chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and other current cancer practices.
Deep tissue photodynamic therapy will potentially provide new treatment options for the cancer patients of the future.” A retired field archaeologist and university lecturer, he has a background in the history of science, technology, and medicine with a particular emphasis on aerospace, military, and cybernetic subjects.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves, such as x -rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons, to destroy or damage cancer cells. But cancer cells grow and divide faster than most normal cells.
Radiation works by making small breaks in the DNA inside cells. These breaks keep cancer cells from growing and dividing and cause them to die.
Nearby normal cell scan also be affected by radiation, but most recover and go back to working the way they should. This means it’s usually aimed at and affects only the part of the body needing treatment.
Radiation treatments are planned so that they damage cancer cells with as little harm as possible to nearby healthy cells. The decision to use radiation therapy depends on the type and stage of cancer, and other health problems a patient might have.
Still, radiation therapy can be used to treat many types of cancer either alone or in combination with other treatments. While it's important to remember each cancer and each person is different, radiation is often the treatment of choice for the following purposes.
Radiation may be used by itself in these cases to make the cancer shrink or completely go away. This is because radiation can cause less damage and the part of the body involved may be more likely to work the way it should after treatment.
In some cases, the area where the cancer most often spreads to may be treated with radiation to kill any cancer cells before they grow into tumors. But some of these tumors can still be treated to make them smaller so that the person can feel better.
Radiation might help relieve problems like pain, trouble swallowing or breathing, or bowel blockages that can be caused by advanced cancer. A person receiving external radiation is not radioactive and does not have to follow special safety precautions at home.
A radioactive source is put inside the body into or near the tumor. With some types of brachytherapy, radiation might be placed and left in the body to work.
Special safety precautions are needed for this type of radiation for a period of time. But it's important to know if the internal radiation is left in the body, after a while it eventually is no longer radioactive.
Systemic radiation : Radioactive drugs given by mouth or put into a vein are used to treat certain types of cancer. You might have to follow special precautions at home for a period of time after these drugs are given.
Your cancer care team can answer specific questions about the type of radiation prescribed for you, how it affects your body, and any precautions that may be needed. During your radiation therapy, a team of highly trained medical professionals will care for you.
Dosimeters: This person helps the radiation oncologist plan the treatment. Radiation therapy nurse: This nurse has special training in cancer treatment and can give you information about radiation treatment and managing side effects.
You may also need the services of a dietitian, physical therapist, social worker, dentist or dental oncologist, pharmacist, or other health care providers. It has long been known that radiation therapy can slightly raise the risk of getting another cancer.
This is one of the many reasons each case is different and each person must be part of deciding which kind of treatment is right for them. If your cancer care team recommends radiation treatment, it’s because they believe that the benefits you’ll get from it will outweigh the possible side effects.
If there’s a chance you might become pregnant, be sure to talk to your doctor about birth control options. If the area getting radiation in your body includes the ovaries, it is possible that the dose of radiation can cause the ovaries to no longer work (sterility), and that you would be unable to have children.
It is important to know the risk of this possibility in advance of receiving radiation therapy. Because of this, doctors often advise men to not get a woman pregnant during and for some weeks after treatment.
It is important to know the risk of this possibility in advance of receiving radiation therapy. Before treatment, you’ll be asked to sign a consent form saying that your doctor has explained how radiation therapy may help, the possible risks, the type of radiation to be used, and your other treatment options.