Radiation therapy for radiotherapy for cancer treatment uses a high dose of radiation to kill cancer cells, shrink tumors. Unlike chemotherapy, radiotherapy is a localized treatment and a high dose of radiation is targetted towards a small local area where a high dose is given to kill cancer cells.
Although the cancer cells do not get killed immediately, radiation alters their internal structure and they start to die progressively. Radiation therapy if cancer is not metastatic has a good cure rate for several cancers for eg for prostate cancer, radiotherapy has a cure rate of 88.6% vs less than 80% for surgery and chemotherapy.
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Most radiotherapy is given over 5 days a week for a duration of 1 week to 10 weeks. The treatment plan is decided by several factors such as the overall health of the patient, location of cancer. Treatment takes only a few minutes and patients are asked to lie flat on a treatment table, under the radiation machine. Other parts of the body may be protected with special shields or blocks to prevent the radiation from going to those areas.
Radiation therapy is of 2 types, external and internal.
External radiotherapy involves mapping of the tumor through images and then an external beam of radiation is targeted to shrink the tumor. IMRT or intensity modulated radiotherapy helps radiation oncologist deliver the right amount of radiation to the tumor while protecting the nearby healthy tissue.
Internal radiotherapy or Brachytherapy involves a radioactive implant near the tumour. This may be a wire, a pellet or a seed which gives radiation for a specified period of time.
The most common types of cancers treated with internal radiation therapy are:
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