Among many advanced forms of cancer treatments, one is radiation therapy, which is the most common way to treat almost all types of cancers. It can be done either individually or with other treatments like chemotherapy.
This piece of writing is an effort to give you a better understanding of various aspects of radiation therapy and its importance in treating cancer. Let’s start with its meaning.
What Is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation Therapy is a type of treatment to cure cancer which includes the use of controlled high-energy radiations like gamma rays, x-rays, protons or electron beams to damage or destroys cancer cells.
Synonyms Of Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy is also known with the names of x-ray therapy, radiotherapy, irradiation, gamma rays, cyberknife, gamma knife.
How Does Radiation Therapy Work?
In simple words radiation damages the genes (DNA) in the cells. These genes control the process of how the cell grows and divide. Radiation damages these genes so that they can’t grow and divide further.
To have a better understanding of radiation therapy and its relation to cancer treatment, we need to understand the life cycle of a cell. In the life cycle of a cell, there are 5 phases. This life-cycle is controlled by proteins which are called cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs).
The diagram below will give a better understanding of life-cycle of a cell and thereby the importance of radiation therapy.
The Cell Life-Cycle
G0 = Cell rests (means it’s not dividing) and does its normal work in our body
G1 = RNA and proteins are made for dividing
S = Synthesis (DNA is made for new cells)
G2 = Apparatus for the mitosis is built
M = Mitosis (when the cell divides into 2 cells)
The above-mentioned life cycle is complete in itself, but the problem arises when something abnormal happens. Actually, when a cell divides into two new cells they are exactly same to their parent cells, but sometimes some cells become different from their parent cell when they divide into new cells. This is what causes cancer. Such, cells divide comparatively at a very fast pace than the normal cells. Here comes the role of radiation therapy as it first destroys these actively dividing cells which cause cancer.
It’s important to mention here that radiation therapy doesn’t kill the cells immediately, and may not give desired results abruptly. In fact, it may take days or even weeks to start showing its effect.
What are the various ways to give a radiation therapy?
There are 2 ways to give radiation therapy –
– External Radiation
– Internal Radiation
External Radiation – Radiations are given from outside the body by using a machine.
Internal Radiation – A radioactive source is put into the body, either in or near the tumour. It is also known as brachytherapy.
What are the side effects of radiation therapy?
– Skin irritation
– Damage to regions exposed to radiation beams
(eg: -hair or salivary glands loss when neck or head area is treated)
– Urinary problems, if lower abdomen is treated.
– Fatigue is among the common side effects of radiation therapy.
Does a patient become radioactive due to taking a radiationtherapy?
Becoming radioactive depends on how a radiotherapy is given.
In the case of an external radiotherapy, radiation does not make a patient radioactive.
Whereas in internal radiotherapy, in which the radioactive material is put into the body, the patient becomes radioactive. But, as soon as the radioactive material is removed, the patient or person is no longer radioactive.
In the case of a permanent internal therapy, the implanted material stays radioactive for some days, weeks or months. It makes the patient radioactive, although a very low amount of radiation reaches the surface of the skin. This Radiation can be diagnosed with radiation monitors.
For precaution, contact with young children and pregnant women should be restricted for some days.
Besides treatment, the most important thing for a cancer patient is TRUST and WILL POWER. Trust life and be strong, as a person’s psychology and thoughts has a huge effect on our body.
So, think good and hope for the best.