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Radiation Therapy for Cancer Treatment- Side Effects and Benefits

In the management of Cancer there are three widely accepted modalities of the treatment-  Surgery, Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. Radiotherapy is neither chemical nor invasive. It maintains the most alternative form of the treatment because this is designed to eradicate the cancer while preserving the organ functionally and preserves the quality of the life also.

When Radiotherapy is delivered either directly or, indirectly, it does not increase the temperature of the recipient. Photons generated in radiotherapy interacts with various tissues including genetic material of cancer cells that is DNA of cancer cells, killing the same in the process.

Today, most of the modern radiotherapy consists of photon produced by the Machine called Linear Accelerators. Teletherapy with Cobalt 60 has been outdated due to its radiation hazards and significant side effects on normal tissue.

Radiation Therapy for Cancer Treatment

Aim of Radiotherapy Treatment:

The aim of modern radiotherapy is to give maximum dose to the tumour and minimum dose to the surrounding normal tissue. It only can be possible using higher techniques of Radiotherapy delivered by Linear accelerator , by deploying the 3 dimensional conformal Radiotherapy – Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy, Image Guided Radiotherapy, Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy, Stereotactic Radiotherapy etc.

As for an example in Laryngeal cancers, it is very vital to save the organ like Larynx . Here in this case Radiotherapy along with concurrent chemotherapy is the treatment of choice by which voice of the patients can be preserved. Likewise, combined modality of the treatment (Radiotherapy being the main part along with concurrent chemotherapy) is currently the accepted standard for the patients who have Cervical  Cancers, Advanced  Head and Neck Cancers, Gastrointestinal Malignancies and Glioblastomas, most lethal malignant brain tumour.  For Breast Cancer, Radiotherapy is given without concurrent chemotherapy.

There are various emergency conditions where Radiotherapy can be used as an emergency  to save the lives of the patients like in Malignant spinal cord compression, Superior Vena Cava Syndrome due to tumour and airway compromise.

Side Effects of Radiation therapy-

  • Except Fatigue, the side effects of radiation are chiefly dependent on the area of the body being treated.
  • Skin reactions like irritation, redness and alopecia  may occur in the area being treated.
  • Patients receiving radiation to Head and Neck may develop oral mucositis, dysphagia and localised skin reactions.
  • Patients receiving radiation to the chest may experience cough, dysphagia and odynophagia during the treatment  while patients receiving the treatment  to the pelvis may experience loose motion or increased frequency of urination.
  • Most side effects of the radiation resolve within a few weeks to month after the treatment is complete. There are very few and rare late toxicities after Radiotherapy.