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National Cancer Awareness Day 2020: What Is Radiation Therapy For Cancer Treatment?

Every year on 7 November, the National Cancer Awareness Day (NCAD) is observed in India. The day was first observed in 2014 after the announcement by Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Union Health Minister of India. NCAD is meant to highlight the significance and increase awareness on early detection and prevention of cancer, which is the second leading cause of deaths worldwide. The day falls on the birth anniversary of French-Polish scientist Madame Curie whose discovery has paved way for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer through nuclear energy and radiation therapy.

In this article, we will discuss radiation therapy and its importance and side effects on cancer treatment. Take a look.

What Is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy or radiotherapy is an effective cancer care program to treat cancer or provide relief from its symptoms. It is mainly used in combination with surgical methods or with systemic chemotherapy in the treatment procedure for cancer.

According to a study, around 14 million new cancer cases are diagnosed every year, out of which the radiation therapy has the potential to cure around 3.5 million people along with providing additional palliative relief to 3.5 million people. These data show that radiation therapy has the potential to provide benefit to around 50 per cent of cancer patients for the management of this chronic condition.

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Uses Of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is widely used in the treatment of cancers such as breast, prostate, lungs, cervix, head and neck and sarcomas. RT alone is effective in treating localised tumours like early-stage cancers, radiosensitive tumours or non-melanoma skin cancer. For advanced-stage cancer types such as cancer of blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes are treated with RT in combination with chemotherapy or surgery.

Localised radiation therapy is best for lymphomas while palliative radiation therapy is used in multiple myeloma and lymphomas. This treatment method is widely used to control metastases or cancer type that has spread to different parts of the body from the primary site. [1]

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How Does Radiation Therapy Work?

Radiation therapy deals with the use of ionising radiations for the treatment of cancer. The success of the method depends on the type, location and anatomic area of the tumour that also helps calculate the radiation dose to be delivered.

The therapy takes advantage of cancer cells due to their impaired DNA repair mechanisms compared to normal cells that can rapidly repair itself. In radiation therapy, the total radiation dose is divided into multiple daily treatments so that some DNA damage to normal cells can be repaired while damage to cancer cells increase over time leading to total cancer cell death. [2]

Process Of Radiation Therapy

  • Prescription: It is the first step of the treatment method. The prescription includes details about the exact part to be treated, dose schedule and overall time period.
  • Planning: Here, X-ray images of the body part is obtained which are to be treated.
  • Treatment plan: Here. individual's treatment plan is made using software that models areas of the body at which maximum and minimum radiation beams are to be delivered and in what dose.
  • Treatment delivery: In this process, after the verification of each procedure, the radiation dose is delivered which may continue for 4-6 weeks.

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Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy

Some of the side effects of radiation therapy include:

  • Itchiness, dryness and blisters on the skin
  • Diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulties while urinating
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Mouth sores
  • Tooth decay

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To Conclude

Radiation therapy varies from person to person. The treatment can be effective for some people while may not for others. Also, the treatment can be expensive, considering the use of complex machines and services and overall dose. Consult a medical expert and know about the whole treatment plan.