Radiation oncology or radiation therapy is the process of using high-energy x-rays and particles to destroy cancerous cells. It is not a one-time process and usually consists of multiple treatments over some time.
The experts at centres like Targeting Cancer say that in addition to destroying cancer cells, radiation therapy can also slow the growth of tumours while causing minimal harm to the surrounding cells. For some people suffering from cancer, radiation therapy alone is sufficient to get the job done.
For others, combinations of radiation therapy with chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgery may be required. Let’s take a look at a few types of radiation therapy in the market.
External Beam Radiation Therapy
When radiation is given from an external machine to the body, it is known as external beam radiation therapy. The following are the types of external beam radiation therapy:
- 3D-CRT: This process involves taking 3-dimensional pictures of cancer through CT scans and MRI This allows doctors to use high radiation levels without damaging the body and will enable them to aim radiation therapy with precision.
- IMRT: Unlike 3D-CRT, IMRT uses different levels of intensity when it comes to radiation. This process targets the cancerous tumour while avoiding any damage to the surrounding healthy cells.
- Proton Beam: This treatment is relatively new and may not be available everywhere. Proton beams are fired into the body instead of x-rays and these protons deposit on the tumour and attack it with radiation.
- IGRT: Daily images are taken of each treatment field to determine patient positioning and ensure the target is in the area. These daily images are compared with the images used early on, allowing the doctor to attack the cells better.
- SRT: A massive amount of radiation is precisely delivered to a small region where the tumour resides. These treatments are lower in frequency and require less than ten sessions.
Internal Radiation Therapy
Brachytherapy or internal radiation therapy uses radioactive implants that directly contact the cancerous cells and destroy them. The following are the types of internal radiation therapy:
- Permanent Implants: Tiny capsules containing radioactive material are placed in the body. Over time the radiation will vanish, but the implants will stay.
- Temporary Internal Radiation Therapy: This involves using needles or catheters that carry radiation and are inserted into your body for the session’s duration. This form of therapy is usually only a few minutes per session, but due to the radiation staying in the person’s body, they may be asked to isolate themselves for a few hours.
Doctors have prescribed radiation therapy as an effective way to treat cancer for almost a century. The trained people in centres like Targeting Cancer warn that there is a risk of the patient emitting radiation from their bodies after undergoing radiation therapy. This is why many patients are requested to isolate themselves after a session.
It is important to note that some people who undergo radiation therapy are likely to develop a second type of cancer, but that number is tiny. When compared to the benefits of radiation therapy, this risk becomes infinitesimally smaller.