Radiation Therapy (RT) is one of the ways to treat cancer patients from the beginning. RT not only treats but also relieves cancer symptoms. RT can prevent cancer from coming back or stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. RT was discovered by WILHELM CONRAD RONTGEN’S IN THE YEAR 1895 a German Physicist while treating with x-rays.
There are five basic steps of Radiation Therapy:
- Initial Consultation: Here, a Radiation Oncologist will check the medical records, pathology reports, radiology images, does physical examination and then decides the treatment through RT.
- Simulation: After the consultation, the radiation oncologist can exactly say the location of the tumor through this process of ‘Simulation.’ A few x-rays and CT scans will also be taken. The treatment spot will be marked with a tiny tattoo ‘dot,’ which can be removed and washed later.
- TREATMENT PLANNING: Radiation Oncologist, and the physicist check the CT images and if needed, MRI or PET is also taken and then decide the field of treatment. They may plan a high dose of treatment to the tumor and limit the dose to the surrounding normal tissues, to preserve the normal tissues and reduce the side effects. Sometimes it takes many days to complete the treatment planning process.
- TREATMENT DELIVERY: Radiation Therapist will position the patient so that he does not move before delivering the radiation dose prescribed by the radiation oncologist. During the treatment, the patient made to meet a team of members who are treating him like the radiation oncologist nurse, skincare, nutritionist, and others if needed.
- POST-TREATMENT FOLLOW-UP: Once the treatment is completed, a schedule is chalked out for a follow-up appointment to check the recovery and overall health of the patient. Accordingly, if needed, a few tests can be asked for, and a report to all the physicians is sent. As days go by the visits to the department of Radiation Oncology will reduce, but the doctors will always be there for any talk and to clarify further doubts.
Radiation Therapy for Cancer:
Out of the 14 million cases that are reported every year, many people are treated through radiation therapy. RT is recognized as an effective treatment for cancer. RT is also used with a combination of chemotherapy and surgery. RT also requires specialized equipment, so a team of trained medical personnel operate it. RT is an essential element to treat cancers of the breast, prostate, cervix, head and neck, lung, brain and sarcomas. RT is the single therapy used to treat localized tumors, like larynx or prostate, non-melanoma skin cancer, head and neck cancers and lymphomas.
Nearly 50% of the cancer patients receive radiation therapy during the course of their illness, and 40% of them get cured. Over the last 100 years, techniques have increased in radiation therapy, and cancer cells are responding well to this treatment, so the survival rates have increased and are reducing the side effects of cancer patients.
BRACHYTHERAPY is a type of therapy used to treat cancer. In this radioactive material is placed inside the patient’s body. This treatment is known as internal radiation. In this treatment, the doctor sends a high dose of radiation to the affected area. Earlier radiation was given by placing a machine outside the patient’s body. Brachytherapy causes fewer side effects than the external beam radiation, and the overall treatment is of a shorter duration. This radiation is used after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that may remain in the body.
Side Effects of Radiation Therapy:
- RT causes a number of side effects like nausea, mouth sores, and throat problems.
- Sometimes RT kills or slows the growth of cancer cells. It also affects the nearby healthy cells and damages them.
- So a patient can feel tired, hair loss, the skin changes, headache and changes in the vision.
- RT can also weaken the patient’s immune system.
Fears in Patients About Radiation Therapy:
- Some patients fear if they can cuddle their partner or hold their grandchild after treatment as they have become radioactive, but they need not fear as once they leave the treatment room, they are not radioactive. Only they are cautioned to avoid close contact with children and pregnant women for two months.
- RT can affect the immune system, so here the doctor’s advice helps to take care.
- RT can change the way a person looks, skin reactions are common, but it’s temporary. The doctor advises to use sun protection ointment and to use skin moisturizer.
- TO continue to work depends on the type of treatment. But it has been seen that most patients are working during and after treatment as well.
- Patients can also continue to exercise and be active.
Duration of Radiation Therapy:
Most of the RT treatments are daily, five days per week, one to eight weeks, depending on the disease and the course of the treatment required.
Time For The Tumor to Shrink:
- Cancer cells die when it starts to divide; if it does not divide it does not die, and so it cannot grow and spread.
- After radiation stops, the cancer tumor might take a long time to shrink.
- Sometimes 18 months for prostate cancer and colon cancer, the tumor may grow or shrink quickly or slowly after radiation.
- Most types of tumor cells shrink very quickly after radiation.
Diet During Radiation Therapy:
Some patients may switch over to bland diet or other foods. It’s better to plan ahead and stock up healthy foods. This will help the patient to eat well and feel better. They may include:
- Fruits and vegetables that include dark green, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas.
- low -fat (1%) milk and milk product, such as cheese, yoghurt or avoid dairy products and include soy, almond and coconut milk.
- Consume whole grain—brown rice, whole-grain bread and rolls.
- Eat a variety of protein-rich foods like seafood, lean meat and poultry.
- Drink plenty of liquids like—water, soups, shakes, teas and juices.
Food to Avoid
- Avoid or reduce salt, added sugars, saturated fats and excess of alcohol.
- Spicy foods, tomato-based food if it irritates the throat.
Awareness of Radiation Therapy to Cancer Patients:
Cancer patient’s awareness of Radiation Therapy is limited and not satisfactory. There is an urgent need to increase the awareness regarding RT, about every aspect of the treatment.
A multidisciplinary team of health care professionals must provide scripts to bring about an awareness of Radiation Therapy treatment to cancer patients.