Radiation Oncology - Importance, Risk, How Performed?
Radiation Oncology or Radiation Therapy is a non-invasive therapy in which radiation beams are used in a controlled manner to treat a wide range of cancers and symptoms associated with the disease. This therapy can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy, surgery, and other treatments.
In Radiation Oncology, high-energy radiations are delivered through radioactive sources or accelerators. The radioactive sources are sealed in catheters, wires, seeds, or needles, and inserted directly into or near a tumour either permanently or on a temporary basis. The radiations destroy the DNA of cancer cells and impair their ability to reproduce.
Main Goals of Using Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy can be used to treat different stages of cancer and to attain different outcomes. However, the main goal of using this therapy is to destroy the cancer cells.
Radiation oncology can be used:
- As the primary treatment for cancer.
- To get rid of symptoms in advanced or late-stage of cancer.
- To reduce the size of a tumour before surgery.
- In combination with other cancer treatments.
- To destroy remaining cancer cells post surgery.
Importance of Radiation Therapy
- Radiation oncology is a safe treatment option as it does not affect the healthy tissues. It also has higher cure rates.
- This therapy reduces the treatment time, bringing out successful outcomes for patients.
- This technology provides 3-dimensional images of tumours so that radiation beams can be precisely targeted to the cancer cells.
- It is possible to monitor breathing and other smallest involuntary movements of patients via real-time imaging - an advanced radiation therapy.
- Radiation therapy is a cost-effective and pain-free treatment for patients.
- It may be used in conjunction with chemotherapy or surgery. It reduces the size of a tumour so that it becomes easy to remove it through surgery.
Risks Associated with Radiation Therapy
Hair loss and fatigue are common side effects of radiation oncology. This therapy may also affect skin cells, resulting in peeling, itching, dryness, and blistering. Other side effects may also be observed depending on the area being treated. It includes vomiting, trouble swallowing, swelling, sore throat, sexual dysfunction, nausea, dry mouth, mouth sores, earache, diarrhoea, painful urination, etc.
How is Radiation Oncology Performed
Radiation therapy is generally performed five days a week for 1 to 10 weeks; however, treatment sessions depending on the type and size of cancer. Each session may take 10 to 30 minutes. Usually, the patient is given each weekend off from the radiation therapy, which helps restore normal cells.
During the treatment session, the patient is laid on the treatment table, and a team of doctors applies cushions and restraints. Protective shields or covering may also be placed on or around the patient to protect other parts of the body from radiations.
Radiations are directed at the appropriate spot through a linear accelerator machine. To direct the radiation at the appropriate angles, the apparatus is slightly moved on the table. Doctors carefully monitor the test from an adjacent room. The patient can communicate with doctors, if necessary, via the room’s intercom.
The patient undergoes several imaging tests and scans during radiation therapy to determine how well the patient is responding to the treatment. These tests also let doctors know if there is any need to make changes in the treatment plan.
There are several Radiation Oncology providers in Singapore and around the globe. Before choosing any radiation therapy centre, it’s crucial to check if it has all the advanced technologies to offer the best cancer treatment.