RADIATION BURNS – THE TUMOR NOT YOU!!!!
Radiation therapy or Radiation Oncology refers to the use of radiation for the treatment of cancers and sometimes benign (noncancer) conditions. It is an indispensable weapon when it comes to the fight against cancer as most of the patients would need integration of this modality for their treatment at some stage of cancer.
However, it is understood in common language as heat or therapy that burns…Is that really true?
Yes, it is… But the fact is that IT BURNS THE CANCER AND NOT NORMAL ORGANS.
If we try and understand how radiation works to treat cancers, it causes the damage of the genetic material called DNA in cells in cancer tissue and destroys them or burns them, eventually causing tumor shrinkage/destruction. Until a few years back, the technology used for radiation machines was unable to deliver focused radiation to tumors, causing normal adjacent tissues/organs also to receive significant radiation doses, leading to side effects or so-called burns in common language…But as science advanced and more refined technology became available, we are now able to target radiation in a much more focused way and spare the normal tissues.
We can track the movement of tumors in moving organs like the lungs and liver. We can image/see the tumor just before and during radiation and correct for any changes in internal organ movements. We can immobilize the body area receiving radiation in a much better way than before. All this helps in reducing the doses to normal organs and sparing them from the side effects.
And the result is, we treat the tumor in a more targeted manner, reducing side effects so that patients tolerate and complete their treatment in time.
The modern-day technologies to help us deliver such targeted radiation are Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), Deep Inspiratory Breath Hold (DIBH) techniques, Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS), Stereotactic Radiotherapy (SRT). These technologies are used depending on the size and type of cancer needing radiation to maximize tumor control and minimize the side effects.