Radiotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-intensity radiation to shrink the tumor cells. In ordinary circumstances, radiation is used in the form of an x-ray to get images of human bones.
The high-intensity radiation alters the cancer cell DNA. This alteration leads to the death of cancer cells after a while and then the body removes those cells.
The removal of cancer cells through radiation therapy is not an instantaneous process. It takes days or even months for the body to change the DNA of the cancer cell and to remove those cells from the body.
In this article, we will answer the following frequently asked questions about radiotherapy:
- What are the types of radiotherapy?
- Is radiation therapy painful?
- What are the side effects of radiotherapy?
- How does radiation kill cancer?
- Is radiation worse than chemo?
- Is radiotherapy effective?
What are the types of radiotherapy?
There are three basic types of radiotherapy:
- External beam radiotherapy- It uses a machine to emit a high-intensity radio beam to kill cancer cells.
- Internal radiotherapy or brachytherapy- In this type of radiotherapy, a radioactive source in either solid or liquid form is implanted at the cancer site that emits radiation to kill the cancer cells.
- Systemic radiotherapy- In this type of therapy a radioactive source is either given orally or intravenously to destroy cancer cells.
Is radiation therapy painful?
A patient may not feel any pain during the process of radiotherapy. There’s no burning or stinging sensation when a high beam of radiation is passed through the cells. However, days after the radiotherapy can be uncomfortable due to the skin changes or irritation one feels. It may have an effect on the healthy cells while killing the cancer cells which can be a painful experience.
What are the side effects of radiotherapy?
Radiotherapy can have different side effects depending upon the site of treatment. In the case of radiation near the neck, it may cause mouth sores, limited production of saliva, or even tooth decay.
Skin changes such as peeling, stinging sensation, or blisters may appear. If the skin condition worsens, the health care provider may reconsider the decision of radiotherapy for a patient.
Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue are some other side effects of radiotherapy sessions that occur after continuous therapy.
How does radiation kill cancer?
The radio beam throws concentrated radioactive rays at the cancer cells that puncture the cells’ DNA. As a result, the cancer cells stop growing and multiplying. The only problem with this treatment is the damage it does to the healthy cells.
Is radiation worse than chemo?
Radiotherapy has side effects that can be hard to manage, but as a treatment option, it is better than chemo because chemotherapy destroys a lot of healthy cells in the body and deteriorates their growth such as hair, nail, and bone marrow cells.
In contrast, radiotherapy may affect the healthy cells only near the site of treatment.
Is radiotherapy effective?
Radiotherapy is 90% effective if the cancer is at the initial stages.