Radiation therapy (also called therapeutic radiology or radiation oncology) uses special kinds of energy waves or particles to fight cancer. Like surgery, radiation therapy is used in different ways depending on the type and location of the cancer. Certain levels of radiation work to destroy cancer cells or by stopping them from growing or reproducing. This treatment may provide a cure for cancer, help control the disease or relieve symptoms.
While each institution may have specific protocols, generally the initial procedures of radiation therapy are:
After a physical examination and a review of medical history, the treatment team plans the position to be available for each treatment and the exact location of the body (known as treatment field or port) where radiation will be administered (process simulation). Sometimes, marks the area of the body that requires treatment to make sure radiation is given properly. The treatment team may also make molds, headrests or other devices that help to position the patient during treatment. Also performed imaging studies during the simulation process to help plan how to direct the radiation treatments.
Once completed the process of simulation, the radiation oncologist will determine the treatment plan, which includes the type of equipment to be used, the amount of radiation needed and the number of treatments administered.
What are the different types of radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy is given through different methods depending on the type of cancer's location and health of the patient. In some cases, radiation therapy used in combination with other treatments. Here are some of the different types of radiation therapy and a brief explanation of the objectives:
External radiation (external beam radiation therapy)
With external radiation (external beam radiation therapy), radiation is administered through a large machine that points the energy waves directly to the tumor. The radiation therapist controls the machine. Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells, special shields may be made to protect the tissue surrounding the treatment area. The treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes.
Internal radiation (brachytherapy, implant radiation)
With internal radiation (brachytherapy, implant radiation), radiation is given inside the body, as close as possible to the cancer. The radiation treatment may be swallowed, injected or implanted directly into the tumor. Some of the radioactive implants are called "seed" or "capsules". Internal radiation involves administering a higher dose of radiation in a shorter time period with respect to external radiation. Some internal radiation treatments stay in the body temporarily; other internal treatments stay permanently, although the radioactive substance loses its radiation within a short time. In some cases, radiation therapy using both internal and external.
What are the side effects of radiotherapy?
Side effects of radiation depend on dose, site and mode of administration (internal or external). Before receiving radiation for cancer treatment, you can perform many basic tests to assess the functioning of the heart, kidneys, lungs, eyes, ears and reproductive organs prior to treatment. Some radiation may affect the functioning of these organs during treatment or months or years after treatment. Some treatments can affect fertility. In general, side effects are associated with the body portion that receives radiation. Among the potential side effects can be found as follows:
Hair loss, also called "alopecia"
Radiation therapy can cause hair loss when applied to the head. In most cases, the children's hair will grow back end of treatment.
This growth also can be affected, especially in young children, whose bone growth is still considerable. Furthermore, the height may be reduced and the limbs may be shortened as a result of radiation.
Changes in the skin
After radiation, the skin may be more sensitive, irritated or red. The skin care plays an important role in the radiation treatment. The skin changes are effects of radiation in the short term. On your child's physician will explain the necessary prevention and treatment of any skin problem that may arise due to radiation.
Diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
If radiation therapy is performed in the pelvis or abdomen of a child may experience diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.