Radiotherapy is a treatment that uses high radiation energy beams to kill cancer cells. It is an alternative to chemotherapy, surgery, or hormone therapy. It is a very effective treatment for many types of cancer, but there are also a few side effects of radiotherapy.
How Does Radiotherapy Work?
Thanks to technological advancements, the radiotherapy market has grown significantly over the last decade, and is projected to grow even more in the next 5 years.
Radiation therapy uses energy beams, such as x-rays and protons, to kill cancer cells. The treatment kills the cancer cells by damaging their DNA. It makes the cells unable to grow and divide.
Radiotherapy can also kill cancer cells by causing cell death. It can also inhibit angiogenesis or the formation of new blood vessels that tumours need to grow.
The types of radiotherapy a person can undergo will depend on a few factors. These include:
- Tumour size
- Cancer type
- Tumour location
- Your overall health.
- Your age and other underlying medical conditions
- Whether you will have any different kind of cancer treatment
There are two types of radiotherapy: External beam radiotherapy and internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy.
1) External Beam Radiotherapy
It is the most common type of radiotherapy. It uses a machine to direct beams of radiation at the cancer cells. It helps to kill the cancer cells and shrink tumours. The process of external beam therapy is usually painless and takes a few minutes each day.
External beam radiotherapy treats the head and neck, lung, breast, prostate, and rectum cancers. The effectiveness of radiotherapy depends on the type of cancer and how far it has spread.
2) Internal Radiation Therapy or Brachytherapy
It uses radioactive implants to kill cancer cells. Internal radiotherapy is meant only for certain cancers, such as cervical cancer and prostate cancer. The process of internal radiation therapy is usually painless and takes a few minutes each day.
It treats breast, prostate, cervical, lung, and rectal cancers by using an implantable device with radioactive material to kill cancer cells. The radiation source is solid or liquid.
Why Do People with Cancer Need Radiotherapy?
Radiation therapy treats cancer and eases cancer symptoms. It can cure cancer, prevent it from returning, or stop or slow down its growth.
It can help reduce pain from tumours that press on bones or nerves when used to relieve cancer symptoms. Doctors may also use it to treat small areas of bleeding in the brain caused by advanced lung cancer.
The goal of radiation therapy is to:
- Kill the cancer cells with a high dose of radiation.
- Prevent the cancer cells from growing and dividing.
- Cause cell death.
- Slow cancer growth by damaging the DNA
- forming new blood vessels that tumours need to succeed.
Sometimes radiotherapy is treated along with chemotherapy or hormone therapy.
In conclusion, despite the side effects, radiotherapy is a very effective treatment for treating many types of cancer. Doctors can even use it to treat cancer that has spread (metastasised) from the primary tumour site. As a result, on average, 4 out of 10 cancer treatments include radiotherapy.