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Cancer treatment with radiation therapy

The discovery of the x rays in 1985 by Wilhelm Rontgen has left a lasting impact on the field of medicine, particularly to cure the life-threatening diseases like Cancer. Three years after its discovery, the systems were devised to use X-rays, initially for diagnosis and within 3 years the high-energy x rays were used to treat Cancer, non-surgically using radiation therapy.


It is over 100 years since the medical practitioners have started using radiation therapy to successfully treat the cancer patients, yet there are people who attach a sense of taboo towards the treatment without understanding its purpose.

How does radiation Therapy work?

All cells in our body grow and reproduce or divide. The individual cells in our body have limited span and they are replaced with the new cells. However, some cells grow faster than the rest and divide faster. These cells are the cancer cells and the radiation prevents the cell growth or the reproduction process by changing the cell’s DNA. The radiation therapy is a non-surgical process where only cancer affected area is targeted.

How do Oncologists use the radiation therapy?

Cancer treating doctors can use radiation therapy by considering several factors. Some of the important factors are listed below:

  • In the early stages of cancer, the radiation therapy is used sometimes only to shrink the tumors to a negligible size or use radiation to disappear the cancer cells.
  • In some cases, where the cancer is in the advanced stages, the radiation is sometimes used on the patient before the surgery to shrink the tumor to remove it easily.
  • In some cases, the radiation therapy is recommended after surgically removing the tumors to keep cancer cells from growing.
  • In some cases, radiation therapy is combined with the chemotherapy to cure cancer.

The radiation therapy largely benefits to the people who are diagnosed with cancer in the early stages and the cancers that are likely to spread to the other parts of the body. Radiation therapy is also used to diagnose and eliminate the undetected cancer cells with a potential to harm the body. In some cases like throat and lung cancers, radiation therapy is used to alleviate swallowing or breathing problems caused because of the location of the tumor.

Types of radiation

  • External Beam Radiation Therapy: As the name indicates, the radiation beams start outside the body and are then directed into the affected areas of the body. Higher doses of radiation could be suggested if the cancer cells are deep in the body tissues. Depending upon the requirement the oncologist may increase the number of beams and the amount of radiation for each beam.  X rays, gamma rays, protons rays etc. are a few examples of External Beam Radiation Therapy.
  • Image Guided Radiation therapy: This is used to track the behaviour of the tumor because they can shrink and move during the treatments. Image guide radiation helps the Oncologist track the position of tumor cells and their behaviour after the radiation. This helps the oncologists to adjust and reposition the radiation target to the affected area. There are four types if Image guide radiation therapy.
    • Gamma Knife
    • Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy
    • True Beam CT guided radiation therapy
    • View Ray MRI guided radiation therapy

    Intensity-modulated radiation therapy and Proton Beam Therapy are two other types of external beam radiation therapies.

  • Internal radiation implants
    A small sized radioactive“seeds” are introduced into a tumor directly or placed closed to the tumor cells. This procedure is ideally used to treat the prostate cancer but the procedure can be recommended for the other cancers as well.The kind of treatment solely depends on the diagnosis reports of the patients. Accordingly, the doctor prescribes the dosage and the type of the radiation. The patients should participate a counseling session before the treatment to discuss the medical history and importantly have the mapping done to precisely locate the tumors or determine the location of the cancer cells.