Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cellsby damaging their DNA (the molecules inside cells that carry genetic information and pass it from one generation to the next). Cancer cells whose DNA is damaged beyond repair stop dividing or die. When the damaged cells die, they are broken down and eliminated by the body’s natural processes.
- How does radiotherapy work?
The radiation may be delivered by a machine outside the body (external-beam radiotherapy), or may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiotherapy, also called brachytherapy).Systemic radiation therapy uses radioactive substances, such as radioactive iodine, that travel in the blood to kill cancer cells.
- When does a patient get radiotherapy?
A patient may receive radiation therapy before, during, or after surgery. Some patients may receive radiotherapy, without surgery or other treatments. Some patients may receive radiotherapyand chemotherapy at the same time. Many a times it is given before surgery, which is called pre-operativeradiation. Radiotherapy given during surgery is called intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT).
- Side-effects of radiotherapy
Radiotherapy can cause both acuteand chronic side effects. Acute side effects occur during treatment, and chronic side effects occur months or even years after treatment ends. Acute radiation side effects include skin irritation or damage at regions exposed to the radiation beams. Most acute effects disappear after treatment ends. Fatigue is a common side effect of radiation therapy regardless of which part of the body is treated. Medications are available to help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting during treatment.
- Caring continues
After cancer treatment, patients receive regular follow-up care from their oncologists to monitor their health and check for possible cancer recurrence.