Around the world, more than 14 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed every single year. Surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy are among the most common treatments. Although increasingly, more and more doctors are turning to radiation therapy.
It is estimated that approximately 50-percent of all cancer patients can benefit from radiation therapy, which makes understanding it, breaking down the various symptoms, and knowing what to expect, an important part of living through treatment. Today, we’re going to highlight the short-and-long-term side effects, as well as illuminate the patient experience to better understand all that can be expected when it comes to radiation therapy.
What Is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy is used as a treatment for various types of cancer and relies on concentrated beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells. How this is accomplished is entirely dependent on the type of radiation therapy being used. Here are three types of radiation therapy:
- External beam radiation uses a machine that precisely targets the cancer cells with radiation beams capable of penetrating the body.
- Internal radiation therapy is often referred to as brachytherapy. This targeting occurs internally using a doctor-placed implant near the cancer site. This implant could be a tube, a wire, a capsule, a seed, or a pellet.
- Systemic radiation therapy happens internally as well, although the process is different. With this application, the patient is often asked to swallow or is injected with a radioactive substance that then travels through the body to find and destroy cancer cells.
The cancer type, stage, size, and location all factor into a doctor’s approach to radiation therapy, although each of the three applications shares a similar goal.