Radiation therapy is one of the most widely used cancer treatments. Known by many names like radiotherapy or radiotherapy, radiotherapy deploys high energy waves to destroy cancer cells. These waves range from electron or proton beams to gamma rays and X-rays.
How does radiotherapy work?
Because cancer cells multiply faster than healthy cells, the radiation creates small cuts in the DNA inside the cancer cells. Exposure to high energy particles prevents them from growing in new cells, which ultimately results in death.
Unlike other cancer treatment therapies, radiation therapy is a localized operation. In other words, treatment focuses only on the part of the body affected by cancer. In doing so, treatment can minimize damage to other parts of the body while destroying cancer cells.
Some of the best cancer hospitals in India offer many variations of radiation therapy. This publication covers all types of radiation therapy available for the treatment of cancer.
External beam radiation therapy
External beam radiation therapy is a variant of radiation therapy commonly used to treat large parts of the body. As the name suggests, this treatment requires an electroluminescent machine which directs the radiation to the body. A linear accelerator emits radiation externally and targets the affected area.
This treatment lasts several weeks. Sometimes the procedure is also administered twice on the same day. The best cancer hospital in India offers the following types of external beam therapy:
- Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) : This procedure uses magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography to create a 3D image of the cancer. Using these images, radiation is focused on a specific location of cancer cells.
- Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) : As an advanced version of 3D-CRT treatment, IMRT produces more complex and targeted radiotherapy. It uses a variable radiation intensity for each new beam.
- Proton beam therapy : this therapy involves the deposition of protons in the affected area, thereby limiting damage to diseased tissue.
- Image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT) : As its name suggests, this therapy involves the use of different images at each stage for comparison and better orientation.
Stereotaxic radiotherapy : this method is used for small tumors. It deposits a large dose of radiation in the affected area and forces the patient to stand up.
In this treatment method, radioactive material is implanted inside the body to damage cancer cells. Also known as brachytherapy, this radiotherapy alternative leaves a radioactive source inside the patient’s body to function for a period of time. It may require hospitalization depending on the type and severity of the cancer.
There are two types of internal radiation therapy:
- Permanent implants – A tiny steel capsule containing radioactive material is placed in the patient’s body. This capsule is the size of a grain of rice and emits radiation in the affected area.
- Temporary radiotherapy – In this method, radiation is injected into the patient via a needle, catheter or single applicator. The radiation stays in the body for a few minutes.
Radiation therapy is administered both as a primary treatment and as a secondary treatment after chemotherapy. Doctors use palliative radiation therapy to reduce the size of the tumor and limit damage. The best cancer hospital in India offers world class cancer treatment using radiotherapy. Different approaches to radiation therapy, as discussed above, allow precise treatment to destroy cancer cells.