Radiotherapy: Procedure and Side Effects
Radiotherapy, also known as radiation therapy, is a type of cancer treatment. High doses of radiation are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation can also be used to observe the inside of your body, as it is used to take x-rays of your bones and teeth. However, the dose of radiation used for this purpose is much lower.
Types of Radiation Therapy
There are two types of radiation therapies:
· External Beam Radiation Therapy
External beam radiation therapy is a type of targeted therapy that treats specific parts of your body. For instance, in the case of lung cancer, the radiation is aimed at your chest and not the whole body. A machine is used to aim radiation at the cancer cells in your body. It can move around to send radiation from different directions, but it doesn’t touch your body.
· Internal Radiation Therapy
In this procedure, a radiation source – either liquid or solid – is put inside the body. When a liquid is used for internal therapy, it is a systemic therapy. You either swallow the liquid, or it is put into your vein through an IV line or injection. The fluid travels throughout your body to destroy any cancer cells.
On the other hand, brachytherapy is when a solid source is used for radiation therapy. Capsules, seeds, or ribbons containing a source of radiation are placed near the tumor. Similar to external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy is a targeted treatment, as it only kills the cancer cells in close proximity to the radiation source.
Various factors determine the type of radiation therapy that you may have. These include:
- type of cancer
- size of the tumor
- location of the tumor in the body
- tumor’s proximity to the normal tissues that may be sensitive to radiation
- other types of cancer treatments you may be taking
- general health and medical history
- any other medical conditions you may have
Is Radiotherapy Worse Than Chemotherapy
The end goal of both radiotherapy and chemotherapy is the same: cure cancer. However, the procedures are vastly different.
Unlike radiation therapy, chemotherapy is entirely dependent on drugs. The drugs circulate through your body to shrink or kill any cancer cells. Chemotherapy is also a type of systemic therapy, as the drugs pass through the whole system.
While both of these cancer treatments have some side effects, neither is better than the other. Whether you require chemotherapy or radiotherapy depends on the type of cancer, the stage, how far it has proceeded, and some other factors as well.
Your doctor will likely want to target cancer using various tools. If the tumor is growing fast, it is possible that both chemotherapy and radiotherapy would be used to contain the growth. It is crucial to have a thorough discussion with your doctor to stay aware of what is going on.
Is Radiotherapy Very Painful?
If you are about to get your first radiation therapy, you may be concerned about it being painful. Fortunately, you will not feel any sensation as the radiation enters your body. The entire procedure is entirely pain-free, as it does not sting, burn, or hurt in any way. The only discomfort you may experience is the smell from the machine and the clicking and buzzing sounds that continue throughout the treatment.
What Are The Worst Side Effects of Radiotherapy?
The major side effect of radiation therapy is that it may also attack healthy cells. While the purpose of this therapy is only to target cancer cells, the radiation cannot always steer clear of the healthy cells. However, with proper monitoring, the doctor can minimize the damage to the healthy cells as much as possible.
There are some other side effects that you may experience following the sessions.
- Sore skin
- Sore skin
- Feeling tired or lethargic
- Feeling sick, especially if the treatment targets areas near your stomach or brain.
- Loss of appetite
- Discomfort while swallowing; if the therapy targets your chest.
If the therapy goes on for an extended period, it can lead to the following side effects.
- Hair loss
- Stiffness of joints and muscles
- Loss of libido
- Premature menopause
- Erectile dysfunction
- Vaginal dryness
- Increased risk of depression
However, almost all of these conditions can be managed or cured. It is important to discuss any side effects of radiation therapy you may have with your doctor so they can guide you about how to manage them.
If you've been diagnosed with cancer, starting the treatment as early as possible is crucial. Not only does this prevent the condition from worsening, but it also increases your chance of complete recovery. Head over to Suncoast Skin Solutions to discuss your options today.