Radiation therapy involves sending a high energy beam of particles to the cancerous part of your body. This beam, made of X-rays, protons, gamma rays, etc., kills the cancerous cells and stops them from spreading to the healthier parts of the body. This treatment is also used to reduce the size of the cancerous tumour. In many cases, this treatment helps reduce pain and discomfort.
Radiation therapy has been proven to be an extremely effective method in treating many forms of cancer. In 2016-17, more than 63,500 doses of radiation therapy were administered to various patients in Australia. This number went up significantly in 2017-18.
Please note that radiotherapy may be the main treatment or be used as an auxiliary treatment. In some cases, radiotherapy is used before surgery to reduce the size of the tumour. Sometimes, radiotherapy is administered to treat other diseases as well.
Not all radiotherapy is external. In some cases, your doctor will insert some tubes carrying medicines inside your body. These tubes will then be placed near the cancerous part of your body. This form of radiotherapy is called ‘brachytherapy’.
Radiation therapy is administered in private clinics or hospitals. Medical oncologists or radiation specialists will supervise this process while radiation therapists will direct those beams at your body. Each session of radiotherapy may take 45 minutes to an hour, so you don’t need to spend much time in the clinic. To get more information here on radiotherapy, you could click on the link provided.
Radiation therapy duration
The tenure of your treatment will depend on the severity of the disease, cancer’s location, health, age, and also whether you have had any history of cancer. Your cancer treatment may last for a few days, weeks or even a few months. For brachytherapy, the tubes might be placed in your body for just a few minutes, days or weeks.
Is radiation therapy painful?
Not at all! You won’t feel a thing while you are undergoing this treatment. You won’t even know that a beam of x-ray is touching your body. You can’t also see that beam. You won’t become radioactive after your course is over. Post your dosage; you can interact with your spouse, kids, and pregnant women. In brachytherapy, there would be some slight inconvenience, but there won’t be any pain at all. There might be some restrictions on who you can see during this treatment.
Side-effects of radiation therapy
You may experience the following symptoms;
- Red sores or patches on your skin
- Dryness in your mouth
- This happens because some healthy cells which might be killed by radiotherapy, expend a lot of energy replenishing themselves
- Loss of appetite
- You may experience digestive problems
- Hair loss
- Shortness of breath
Some of these side-effects may be short-term, while others will last for your entire life. If some of these side-effects become severe, your doctor might change your treatment or pause it.
After your radiotherapy has finished, your doctor will conduct a physical examination. He will scan your body for any remaining cancerous cells. To check whether your radiotherapy has worked, you will have to wait until your course has finished. Your doctor can’t give you medical updates during your treatment because cancer cells die days or weeks after the treatment has ended.
Radiotherapy and pregnant women
This treatment doesn’t work for pregnant women as it can affect the baby. Women must avoid becoming pregnant during this treatment. Men who are undergoing radiotherapy should not impregnate their partners while the treatment is on.