Radiation therapy – a method of treating tumors with ionizing radiation. This radiation is produced by special machines that use a radioactive source. The method consists in the fact that during irradiation in actively dividing cells accumulate many mutations that lead to their demise. The tumor cells proliferate much faster than normal, so they are more sensitive to radiation.
There are several variants of radiation therapy (radiotherapy). First of all, they are divided by type of radiation – roentgen therapy and gamma therapy. From the position of the source relative to the human body there is a remote exposure (at a distance), contact, intracavitary. Radiation can be fed directly to the tumor using thin needles (interstitial radiation). Radiation therapy is an independent medical specialty, which is involved in radiation therapists. When the need for this method of treatment the doctor oncologist, the patient to consult a radiation oncologist, which determines the type of therapy, the amount of radiation exposure and the duration of the course.
How is radiation therapy?
The main challenge in radiotherapy is to provide maximum exposure to the tumor while minimizing exposure to healthy tissue. To do this, the planning of therapy the physician should determine with accuracy the location of the tumor process, to direct the beam in the right direction and at the proper depth. The area is called the field of radiation exposure. For remote irradiation applied to the skin tag, indicating the scope for action. The surrounding area and other parts of the body will be protected by lead shields. The session lasts for a few minutes of irradiation, and the number of sessions is determined by the total radiation dose, which has been assigned. The radiation dose depends on tumor size and type of tumor cells. During the session the patient is not experiencing any pain and other sensations. Irradiation takes place in a specially equipped room. During the procedure, the patient is alone there. The doctor watches the scene from the next room through a special glass or with the help of video cameras.
Depending on the type of cancer radiation therapy may be an independent method of treatment or used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is local and can be used to affect some parts of the body. In many cases, it contributes to a significant reduction in tumor size or complete recovery.
Complications of radiation therapy
Side effects may appear only in the irradiated areas or be general in nature. Before treatment ask your doctor what complications can be expected and whether there are ways to avoid them.
Side effects depend on the area that was exposed. For example, irradiation of the neck or chest pain may occur and difficulty in swallowing due to oesophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus). The irradiation of the scalp can cause hair loss.
When the remote is often irradiated skin dryness, flaking, itching, redness, the appearance of tiny bubbles. For the prevention and treatment of such reactions are used softening creams and lotions. Frequent complication of radiation therapy is a weakness and fatigue. Coping with this will help correct sleep, daytime rest, diet with enough calories, walking in the fresh air.
All problems should be reported immediately to the doctor, because most of them can be reduced or eliminated. Remember that although the side effects and unpleasant, but most of the time and after the treatment will take place gradually.