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On May 28, 2017
Last modified:June 5, 2017


Radiation therapy for cancer uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and finish cancer cells X – rays, gamma rays, and charged particles are a condition of radiation used for cancer treatment.

The radiation may be delivered by a machine outer of the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it might have become from radioactive material placed in the body around cancer cells (internal radiation therapy, also called brachytherapy).

Radiation Therapy for Cancer

Systemic radiation therapy uses radioactive substances, such as radioactive iodine, that go travel in the blood to finish cancer cells.

About 1/2 of all cancer patients get few types of radiation therapy sometime during the course of their treatments.

How Do Radiation Therapy Kill Cancer Cells?

Radiation therapy finishes cancer cells through damaging their DNA (the molecules inside cells that carry genetic to detail and pass it from 1 generation to the next generation). Radiation therapy can also problem DNA directly or create charged particles (free radicals) within the cells that can in turn damage the DNA.

Cancer cells whose DNA is damaged beyond repair stop dividing or die. When the damage cells finish, they are broken down time and eliminated by the body’s natural processes.

Does Radiation Therapy Finish Only Cancer Cells?

No, radiation therapy can be the damage normal cells, leading to side effects.

Doctors take potential finish cell to working cells into account when planning a course of radiation therapy. The amount of radiation that normal tissue can safely get is known for all areas of the body. Doctors use this detail to help them decided where to aim radiation during treatment.

Why do Patients Receive Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy is sometimes give up with curative intent (that is, with the hope that the medication will cure cancer, either by eliminating a tumor, preventing cancer recurrence, or 2) (1). Like that cases, radiation therapy may use one or in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, or both.

Radiation Therapy for Cancer - Uses & Side Effects - National Cancer Institute

Radiation therapy may also be giving the palliative intent. Palliative treated are not intended to cure. Instead, they relieve symptoms and increase the suffering caused by cancer.

For few examples of palliative radiation therapy are:

  • Radiations are given to the brain to shrink tumors formed from cancer cells that have spread to the brain from others area of the body (metastases).
  • Sometimes Radiation is given to shrink a tumor that is working on the spine or growth within a bone, which can cause pain.
  • Radiation giving to shrink a tumor nearest the esophagus, which can interfere with a patient’s abilities to eat and drink.
  • How is radiation therapy planned for an individual patient?
  • A radiation oncologist develops a patient’s treatment plan through works called medication planning, which starts with simulation.

Between simulations, information imaging scans show the area of a patient’s tumor and the normal location around it. These scans are normally computed tomography (CT) scans, but they can also which the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and ultrasound scans.

Create by a computer linked to an x-ray machine.

Radiation Therapy for Cancer – Uses & Side Effects – National Cancer Institute

Between simulations and everyday medication, it is importance to sure that the patient will be in accurately the position every day relative to the machine delivering the treatment or making the imaging. Body molds, head masks, or other devices may be constructing for a separately patient to making it easily for a patient to wait still. Temporary skin marks and even tattoos are used to help with precise patient positioning.

Radiation Therapy for Cancer - Uses & Side Effects - National Cancer Institute

Patients getting radiation to the head may need a mask. The mask helps keep the head from moving so that the patient is in the exact same position for each treatment.

How is Radiation Therapy Given to Patients?

Radiation can come from a machine outer of the body (external-beam radiation therapy) or from radioactive material placed in the body nearest cancer cells (internal radiation therapy, most normally called branchy therapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, given by mouth or into a vein that works in the blood to tissues over all the body.

The situation of radiation therapy prescribed by a radiation oncologist depends on more factors, including:

  • The stage of cancer
  • The size of the cancer
  • The cancer’s verifying exact looking in the body.
  • How close the cancer is to normal tissues that are sensitive to radiation.
  • How far into the body the radiation wants to move.
  • The patient’s General health and medical history.
  • Whether the patient will have others steps of cancer treatment.
  • Other factors, such as the patient’s age and other medical conditions.

External-beam Radiation Therapy

External-beam radiation therapy is more often delivered in the form of photon beams (either X-Rays or Gamma Rays). A photon is the basic unit of light and others forms of electromagnetic radiation. It can be thought of as a bundle of energy. The amount of energy in a photon can vary. Like that the photons in gamma rays have the high-level energy, followed by the photons in X- Rays.

Radiation Therapy Side Effects

Radiation therapy treated more steps of cancer effective. But like others treatment, it often causes a side effect. These are changes for every people. They depend on the condition of cancer, its locating, the radiation therapy dose, and your general health.

Why Does Radiation Therapy Cause Side Effects?

Highly doses of radiation therapy are used to damages cancer cells. Side effects contain because radiation therapy can also destroy healthy cells and tissues nearest the treatment area.

Side Effects Can be Prevented or Treated?

Yes. Your Healthcare team can help you carefully or treatment more side effects. Preventing & take caring side effects is an importance area of cancer medication. This conditions of care are called palliative care.

Radiation Therapy Common & General Side Effects

Radiation therapy is a local medication. That is why; it only affects the part of the body which the tumor is finding. Like that, persons do not normally lose their hair from having radiation therapy. But if radiation therapy is aimed at the area of the body that grows up hair, like that the scalp, a people may have hair loss.

  • Skin problems issue, few persons who radiation therapy experience dryness, itching, blistering, or peeling. But these side effects all depends on which area of the body get radiation therapy. If you developing skin facing problem, they normally go away some weeks treatment after has finished. If skin damage becomes a serious problem, the doctor may change your treatment plan.
  • Fatigue. Fatigue is feeling tired or exhausted almost all the time. Your level of fatigue depends on whether you are having other medication, like that chemotherapy. Learn many about how to cope with fatigue.

Long Term Side Effects

More side effects go better after medication. But few go away, come back, or develop after some. These late effects may include develops

More side effects go better after medication. But few go away, come back, or develop after some. These late effects may include develops 2nd cancer. But, the risk of having 2nd cancer because of radiation therapy is little. This risk is all smaller than the benefit of treating the basically, existing cancer.

Side effects Specific to Where Radiation Therapy is given

In addition to general side effects, some side effects of therapy depend on the type and looking at the radiation.

Head and neck. If radiation therapy is aimed at a person’s head and/or neck, they may experience these side effects:

  • Dry mouth

  • Mouth and gum sores

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Stiffness in the jaw

  • Nausea

  • A type of swelling called lymphedema

  • Chest. Radiation therapy aimed at the chest may cause these side effects:

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Breast or nipple soreness

  • Shoulder stiffness

A cough, fever, and fullness of the chest. This is known as radiation pneumonitis and happens between two weeks and six months radiation after therapy

Radiation fibrosis, where is permanent scarring of the lungs from untreated radiation pneumonitis. The radiation oncologist knows how to lower the risk of fibrosis in the planning process.

Radiation Therapy for Cancer - Uses & Side Effects - National Cancer Institute

Stomach and abdomen. Radiation therapy aimed at the stomach or abdomen may cause these side effects:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Diarrhea

These symptoms will likely not appear after medication. Your doctor can prescribe drugs for these side effects, and making changes to your diet may also reduce your discomfort.

Pelvis. Radiation therapy aimed at the pelvis may cause these side effects:

  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Incontinence
  • Bladder irritation

In addition, radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause different symptoms for men and women.

For men:

Sexual effects problems, such as erectile dysfunction, which is the inability to get or maintain an erection

Little sperm counts and increase sperm active from radiation therapy to the testes or prostate. This may affect the ability to father a child. Learn about ways to preserve your fertility.

For Females:

Changes in menstruation, such as stop menstruating

Symptoms of menopause, like as vaginal itching, burning, and dryness

Infertility, where is the inability to conceive a child or maintain a pregnancy, if 2 ovaries get radiation. Learn about ways to preserve your fertility.