lung cancer, cancer treatment, radiation oncology

Radiation Oncology is a cancer treatment that uses high energy radiation to shrink tumors in the body and kill cancer cells. The types of waves used in radiation are X-ray, gamma, and charged particles. A machine is used to deliver treatment outside the body directly to the tumor. This is called external radiation therapy. There are various cancers treated by radiation oncology, but a few of the top cancers are breast cancer, lung cancer, and more.

When materials are placed in the body near the locations of the tumor this is internal radiation therapy. When placed inside they use tiny pellet that are radioactive. The radioactive isotope is sealed inside these pellets. They insert them using needles and other devices. They decay giving off radiation killing cancer cells in the tumor and area. It can be given in high or low doses.

Types of Cancers Treated

Radiation therapy is used to treat many types of cancer: breast, prostate, head and neck, throat, brain, pancreatic, lung cancer, bone and ovarian cancer. It is a therapy that shrinks tumors before they spread throughout the body. It stops cancer cells from dividing and growing. Radiation is often combined with chemotherapy and surgery to prevent tumors from growing back again.

Pancreatic and Throat Cancer

Pancreatic cancers often get treated by external beam radiation from a machine. Depending on the type of tumor treatment, this can last one week to five weeks or more. It is often combined with chemotherapy to improve results for shrinking tumors. Radiation often keeps tumors in the pancreas from growing back and returning. Side effects of the treatment may be mild skin reaction, upset stomach, tiredness, and loose bowel movements.

For the early stages of throat cancer radiation is often all that is needed.  Both external and internal types of radiation therapy are used in treatment of throat cancer. In more advanced stages of cancer radiation is used to relieve the patient of symptoms.

Individual Treatment Plans

In all radiation treatment an oncologist must design a treatment program using simulation. Simulations are images that show the exact location of the tumor in the patient. Pictures are usually created by a computer linked to an X-Ray machine. The patient must be in the right position for the machine to deliver the radiation wave therapy. Often body molds and face masks are created to keep the patient still. Skin marks and tattoos are used to position the patient correctly.

Patients’ that require head and throat radiation therapy often wear a mask to keep the head from moving. The doctor must determine the exact location treated and the amount of radiation the tumors receives directly and to surrounding tissue. The staff uses computers to design the locations of the treatment. They often check weekly to ensure that treatment is going according to plan. Normal tissue near the tumor is treated to keep cancer from spreading 

Radiation therapy is used to treat many different type of cancer successfully.  Depending on the type treatments can last from one week to six. Each session lasts about 40 minutes or less.  Depending on the type of cancer the doctor will decide the best type of treatment and length of time needed to treat it.

By Joan Russell

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