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Radiation Therapy: Killing Cancer!

Radiation Therapy

What Is Radiation Therapy?

The method of using ionizing radiation either in the form of protons or charged particles in order to bring about damage to the biological cells is known as radiation therapy. It is purely the application of physics into the human biology. The energy from the protons and/or the charged particles is used to kill the DNA of the cancer cells. The dose, frequency of the radiation is decided collectively by the oncologist, surgeon as well as the radiologist depending upon the type, nature and progression of the cancer.

Medical Conditions Requiring Radiation Therapy:

Radiation therapy can be used for the treatment of a host of diseases, including both cancerous as well as non cancerous conditions. Cancers requiring radiation therapy are as follows:

  • Leukemia, lymphoma and germ cell tumors (ovarian cancer, breast cancer, uterus cancer, prostate cancer)
  • Tumors of the epithelial layers of skin and mucus membranes
  • Renal cell carcinoma (kidney), melanoma (cancer of the melanin pigment)
  • Lung cancer, brain and breast cancer, neuromas require various doses and frequencies of radiation therapy
  • Radiation beam therapy also finds application in the treatment of bone marrow cancer, liver cancer
  • Non cancerous conditions requiring radiation therapy are as follows:
  • Arteriovenous malformations: Abnormal connections between minute arteries and veins which sometimes develop due to unknown etiologies can be treated with radiation therapy.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia: This is a condition affecting the facial nerve in which tremendous pain and discomfort is seen I the facial region as a result of spasm in the muscles of facial expression. Radiation therapy can help in such conditions by reducing the expression and release of neurotransmitters from the nerve ending. 

Types of Radiation Therapy:

  • Curative: This type of radiation therapy intends to kill the cancer kills completely in order to eradicate the disease off the body. The radiation beam has protons and charged particles which destroy the DNA of the cancer cells. Since the cancer is abolished, so are the symptoms. This holds true for early stages of benign tumors which are well behaved and are localized in nature, less aggressive too.
  • Adjunctive: This is mainly done along with chemotherapy and surgical approaches. A radiation therapy can be planned prior to a surgical management in order to reduce the aggression of the cancer cells which will help in a more precise removal of the cancer mass. Alternate sessions of chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also planned for certain types of cancer in order to avoid resistance of the cancer cells to each type of treatment. This type of method can also help to reduce the symptoms to some extent.
  • Palliative: This mostly is intended to suppress the symptoms of the cancerous or the non cancerous conditions. This method cannot kill the cancer cells. This can be the last resort in the most aggressive types of cancers where only symptoms can be suppressed and no cure can be found.

Treatment Procedures for Radiation Therapy:

  • Traditional method/Mechanism of action: The traditional method that is to be followed for the radiation therapy procedure involves firstly the correct knowledge regarding the dose and frequency of the radiation. Once this is done, the patient is ready to receive the radiation. The patient is asked to remove all the jewelry on his or her body along with the clothes and is given one simple long gown to drape over the body. One long tubular machine is used to target the radiation beam over the part of the body where cancer is present. As for example in cases of colon cancer, the beam is targeted towards the large intestine. This procedure can last from 10 minutes to half hour. The sessions can vary from one or two a day, three times in a week or once or twice a week for six months depending upon the type, nature and aggression of the cancer in the body.

The radiation beam consists of electrons which are highly charged particles. They cause disruption of the DNA in the nucleus of the cancer cells bringing about death of the cancer cells. One of the greatest disadvantages of using radiation therapy is that the beam though targeted at the cancer mass, does not know how to differentiate cancer cells from the healthy cells. Hence normal cells also can face adversity in a minor or a major range. To help avoid this condition, some doctors may advise the use of bracytherapy if that can be done for the particular type of cancer.

  • Total body irradiation TBI: This is done twice a day for three or four days. It makes use of high energy protons to irradiate the full body. One may have TBI alongside high dose chemotherapy drugs as part of preparation for a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. 

           It is recommended for cases like:

  • lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system)
  • leukaemia (cancer that develops in the white blood cells of the immune system)
  • myeloma (cancer that develops in white blood cells called plasma cells)

TBI alongside chemotherapy helps to kill off leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma cells in the bone marrow. In a transplant using donor stem cells, TBI also suppresses the immune system. This helps to prevent a rejection of the donor stem cells.

  • Brachytherapy: This is the recent advancement in the field of radiation therapy. Small pellets are placed inside the body where cancer is present. The pellets contain radioactive materials which keep emitting the radiation for as long as they are present in the body. Thus a continuous emission of radiation can be done at all the hours without the patient having to visit the radiation centers time and again. A keyhole surgery is needed for this purpose; a catheter is inserted via which the pellets are placed inside or near the cancer part. After the pellets are done emitting radiation, they are removed from the body by the natural process; no additional surgery is needed to remove them.

Complications And Risk Factors Associated With Radiation Therapy:

Radiation therapy is a painless procedure, yet a few disadvantages can be attributed to the procedure such as:

  • Nausea, vomiting, uneasiness, general discomfort
  • Dry mouth, sore throat, difficulty in swallowing. This occurs as a result of damage to the mucus secreting cells and the salivary gland cells in the oral cavity and the throat
  • Damage to hair follicles leads to hair loss
  • Infertility, impotence can occur in cases of ovarian, uterus and prostate cancer where radiation therapy sessions are used.

Am I Good Candidate For Radiation Therapy?

You are an ideal candidate for radiation therapy if you fit in any of the following cases:

  • You recently have been diagnosed with cancer, which goes to say that the cancer is in early stage and can be called as a benign one
  • The cancer has not been aggressive and has not spread to the adjacent parts
  • In case you have been asked to go for a surgical option to remove the cancer, radiation therapy can help to reduce the number of cancer cells so that the surgery becomes easy and less invasive procedure.

Recovery Time:

This largely depends upon the dose and frequency of the radiation beam therapy. As for example, if the dose is not high, hair loss can be repaired within 6 to 8 weeks time, may take over a period of six months too. However with high doses, permanent hair loss can also be seen. Dryness and soreness corrects within a week’s time after cessation of the radiation therapy.

Success Rate of Radiation Therapy:

Success rate depends upon the stage of cancer at which the radiation therapy has been started. It is different for different types of cancerous and non cancerous conditions. Success rates are as follows:

  • Prostate cancer: 98 percent, very good survival rate
  • Breast cancer: 94 percent
  • Uterus cancer: 84.44 to 88 percent
  • Ovarian cancer: 92 percent
  • Liver cancer: 31 to 35 percent
  • Lung cancer: 33 to 38 percent
  • Leukemia: 61.4 percent
  • Lymphoma: 79 percent
  • Skin cancer: 84.5 percent
  • Brain cancer: 19 to 25 percent

Benefits of Radiation Therapy:

A radiation therapy will help you in the following manner:

  • Kill the cancer cells at the early stages so that it does not get aggressive
  • Reduce the size of the cancer mass before the surgical removal
  • The palliative type of radiation therapy will only help to subside the cancer symptoms; does not intend to kill the cells
  • Once you’ve opted for the radiation therapy, be rest assured to get relief from the cancer in many ways.

Cost comparisons:

There are packages of radiation therapy which consist of 15 to 20 sessions. This would cost you around a fee of 10 to 15 lakhs. This is almost the fee you will expected to pay for at last a minimum of 3 to 4 sessions only in the US/Uk?Australia.

Why choose India?

India is one of the most versatile lands in the field of medical treatment with team MedcureIndia being an ardently dedicated platform for medical tourism. Various types of cancer in different types of stages find their cures and treatments here in the form of radiation therapy sessions. You not only will be charged less, but also be rest assured with the treatment outcome.

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