High-dose radiation is used in radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) that comes under Ways to Fight Cancer and to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Low doses of radiation, such as those used in x-rays for teeth or broken bones, are used to see inside the body.
Radiation is one of the most common therapies for cancer. Therefore, radiation therapy, radiotherapy, irradiation, and x-ray therapy are also names for radiation treatment for Ways to Fight Cancer.
Radiation therapy – what is it?
Radiation treatment uses high-energy particles, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electrons, or protons, to kill or damage cancer cells.
Typically, your cells multiply and reproduce to form new ones. However, cancer cells replicate and divide more rapidly than most normal cells. In addition, radioactive particles break up DNA in cells. As a result, cancer cells cannot divide or grow, so they die. Radioactive particles can also affect nearby healthy cells, but most recover and resume normal functions.
Unlike chemotherapy and other cancer-fighting treatments taken orally or by injection, radiation therapy usually treats a localized area only. In other words, it focuses on and treats only the parts of the body that need treatment. Therefore, it is crucial to plan radiation treatments to damage cancer cells with the most negligible impact on nearby healthy cells.
In systemic radiation therapy, radioactive substances are injected or taken orally. Although this type of radiation travels throughout the body, it mainly gathers in the tumor area, so it has little effect on the rest of the body.
Chemotherapy vs. Radiation Therapy: What’s the difference?
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are two of the most common cancer treatments available. In radiation therapy, high-energy particles or waves kill cancer cells. Cell growth and reproduction aim to create new cells and replace those lost to damage and aging. It is believed that cancer cells reproduce faster than normal cells and lack the controls found in normal cells. These particles (or waves) damage their DNA (genetic information) to kill cancer cells. DNA contains the code required for a cell to grow and divide.
The high-energy beams used in radiation therapy are directed directly to cancer. Aims are made to avoid damaging as many healthy cells as possible. This therapy can’t treat cancers that have spread because it focuses on a specific body area. Radiation therapy is used to cure or reduce early-stage cancer, prevent cancer from recurring (recurrence), and treat advanced cancer symptoms.
In contrast, chemotherapy includes the use of drugs to treat cancer. Unlike radiation, chemotherapy drugs spread throughout the body, targeting cancer in one area. This procedure is used to treat tumors that cannot be surgically removed. It also helps for cancers that have spread to other parts of the body and when doctors are unsure whether or not cancer has spread. Chemotherapy drugs inhibit cancer cell division and activity.
Chemotherapy can treat cancer, reduce the spread of cancer, and reduce the pain it causes. Chemotherapy drugs harm both healthy and cancerous cells, so doctors need to give the right dosage of drugs (adjusted for each person) to achieve the desired effect without harming healthy cells.
Radiation treatment types
Radiation therapy consists of two main types: external beam and internal beam.
A variety of factors determine the type of radiation therapy you may receive, including:
- Cancer type
- The tumor’s size
- Body part where the tumor is located
- The tumor’s proximity to radiation-sensitive tissues
- Health and medical history
- What other cancer treatments you will receive
- Other factors, such as your age or medical conditions, can also influence your decision
In external radiation, high-energy beams destroy DNA and other parts of cancer cells. Radiation therapy external beams are local treatments, which means they treat a specific part of your body. Radiation will be administered to the chest only if you have lung cancer rather than the entire body.
Brachytherapy or internal radiation
Internal radiation therapy refers to placing a radioactive source inside your body. Both solid and liquid sources of radiation are used.
The use of a solid source for internal radiation therapy is called brachytherapy. Seeds, ribbons, or capsules containing radiation sources are placed in or near the tumor during this type of treatment. Like external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy affects only part of your body.
During brachytherapy, the radiation source in your body emits radiation for a time.
Radioactive chemicals are introduced into the body through the mouth or blood vessels (IV injection). Systemic treatment travels via the bloodstream to all tissues throughout your body to kill cancer cells. It is possible to receive systemic radiation therapy by swallowing, IV line, or injection.
Systemic radiation causes your body fluids, such as urine, sweat, and saliva, to emit radiation.
What is the purpose of radiation treatment?
Many types of radiation therapy don’t reach all parts of the body, so they don’t help treat cancer that has spread throughout the body. Nevertheless, radiation therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of cancers independently or in conjunction with other treatments. All cancers and individuals are different, but radiation is often the treatment of choice for the following reasons.
Curing or shrinking early-stage cancer
Radiation is very effective in treating some cancers. It is possible to shrink or eliminate cancer by radiation alone in these cases. Chemotherapy or other anti-cancer drugs are sometimes administered first. Other cancers may be treated with radiation before surgery to shrink the tumor (neoadjuvant therapy) or after surgery to prevent cancer from returning (adjuvant therapy).
When radiation or surgery can cure certain cancers, radiation may be preferred. As a result, radiation may cause less damage, and the body part affected may function better after treatment.
To treat the symptoms of advanced cancer
Some cancers can’t be cured because they have spread too far. However, the person can still get treatment to make these tumors smaller, so they feel better. In advanced cancer cases, radiation may help relieve pain, trouble swallowing, breathing, or bowel obstructions. This type of radiation is called palliative radiation.
Recovering from cancer
Radiation therapy may treat cancer or symptoms caused by advanced cancer if cancer has returned. After a recurrence, radiation may or may not be used. Cancer that has returned in the same place where radiation has already been applied might not be treatable with more radiation there.
Radiation doses affected the outcome. Sometimes radiation is used in the same body area or another. Tumors that don’t respond well to radiation might not be treated with radiation even if they return.
Final Words for Ways to Fight Cancer
A variety of cancers can be treated with radiotherapy. Nearly 60 percent of cancer patients receive radiation therapy. Because of this reason, radiation therapy is a growing field of research. The goal is to create more selective treatments in their effects, damaging cancer cells while protecting normal cells.