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Cancer cells grow rapidly, and cause tumors in the body. Radiation therapy aims at destroying these cells, which prevents their growth and spread in the body.

For this purpose, various radiation sources, such as, X-Rays, Gamma Rays, and Particle Beams of electrons, protons, or neutrons, are used to destroy the cancerous cells within the body. The radiation therapy is used to treat patients with almost any type of cancer. Often, this therapy is also accompanied by other medical treatment methods that are given to cancer patients.

The Types
  • External Radiation - In this method, the patient is given radiation from a machine that is present outside the body. This process does not require hospitalization of the patient.
  • Internal Radiation or Brachytherapy - In this method, small radioactive capsules or tubes are placed inside the patient's body. These deliver the radiotherapy to those parts of the body that are affected by cancer cells. This process does require hospitalization of the patient.
  • Systemic Radiation - In this method, the radioactive substance is injected into the vein of the patient. The substance then travels through the body of the patient delivering the radiotherapy. This process also requires hospitalization of the patient.
  • Intra-Operative Radiation - In this method, radiotherapy is given to the patient during a surgical procedure. Here, an external beam of radiation is aimed at the area where cancer cells need to be destroyed. This process also demands hospitalization of the patient.
Radiation Therapy

External Radiation Therapy sessions are normally treated on an outpatient basis. This means that the patient can go home right after the session. This treatment is usually carried on for a few weeks.

Before beginning the procedure, a simulation session is held, wherein, scanning is done to determine the location of cancerous cells in the body, and administer ideal method of delivering the radiation beams to the right part of the body.

In the actual session, the patient is asked to lie down in a pre-determined position. This is determined during the simulation session. Then shields and molds are placed around the body to cover the healthy parts of the body. The radiation machine has a linear accelerator arm, which then buzzes around the body delivering rays of radiotherapy to the affected body parts. The patient needs to lie still and breathe normally during this time. This treatment takes only a few minutes to complete.

Side Effects

Radiation, whether for the purposes of healing or curing, does carry certain risks and has a few side effects on the patient's body.

One of the major side effects of this therapy is fatigue. Patients end up feeling extremely tired and worn out after the treatment procedure.

Hair loss is also a common effect of radiation therapy. Hair is lost over the areas of the skin, where this technique is applied. This may also be followed by skin irritation.

Dry mouth, difficulty in swallowing, sore throat, ear aches, nausea, thickened saliva, sore jaw, and change in the taste of food are some other side effects.

When radiation is applied to the pelvic area, it is often accompanied by diarrhea, frequent urination, sexual dysfunction, and bladder irritation.

Radiation to the chest area causes cough, short breath, and difficulty in swallowing.

And radiation to the abdomen area causes nausea, upset stomach, and diarrhea.

It is always best to ask your doctor about the possible side effects that can develop after the therapy. These effects can be short-term or even long-term. It is always best to know beforehand, about the possibilities one may have to encounter before embarking on the process of taking radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer.