Radiation therapy for cancer is a longstanding, extremely well-studied treatment that has been used effectively for many decades. Like chemotherapy, radiation works by damaging cancer cells. With faulty DNA, the cancer cells do not recover as well as normal cells, which have normal DNA and can recover and reproduce much better. The goal of radiation treatment is to kill the cancer cells, shrink tumors, and maximize the chances for cure. Another goal is to minimize the collateral effects of treating the body with ionized radiation.
Fighting cancer with all types of radiation treatment
There are many different types of radiation therapy. The exact type, frequency, and duration of treatment that will be most appropriate and effective for you or your loved one, is also dependent on those various factors (cancer type, cancer stage, patient health, treatment goals). Radiation therapy can be used to reduce symptoms even when cure of the underlying cancer is not possible. Here are the most common forms of radiotherapy in use today:
- EXTERNAL-BEAM RADIATION THERAPY
Treating cancer from outside the body using a beam of ionizing radiation has evolved a great deal over the decades. Initially, the beam was pointed directly at the area of the body inside which the tumor was located. It then evolved to conform to the exact shape and size of the tumor (called 3D conformal radiotherapy), a step made possible by the 3D imaging of CT scans. External radiotherapy then evolved into intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), which made the beam even more conformal to the shape and size of the tumor. Later image guidance was added to further improve the precision of external beam radiation. External-beam radiation therapy typically lasts 6 to 8 weeks.
About the side effects of radiation therapy
Radiation therapy does come with unpleasant side effects, but they can usually be well controlled or treated. The most common side effects of radiation therapy (but not radiosurgery) include:
Skin reactions (radiation dermatitis)
Decrease in white blood cell counts
Loss of appetite
Trust leaders in radiation therapy
At the START Center for Cancer Care, our radiation oncologists provide the highly trained, highly experienced care that is essential to effective and appropriate radiation treatment. We offer the full range of radiation therapies and the expertise necessary to develop the most effective and appropriate treatment plan for each individual. We are dedicated to providing the highest standard of care, and the compassion and personalized attention and service that have made us a leader in cancer treatment around the globe.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment with a START Center cancer specialist, call 210-593-5700. Or request an appointment using our easy online form.