Radiotherapy is a cancer treatment that is commonly used to treat and address a variety of different cancers. High radiation doses are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours when radiotherapy is performed. Radiation therapy harms cancer cells' DNA, either killing them or, at high doses, inhibiting their growth. When cancer cells are exposed to high doses of radiation repeatedly, this causes their DNA to be denatured, or ‘broken down,’ which in turn will kill the affected cells that are then cleared by the patient’s immune system.
These cancer cells with damaged DNA cannot divide further once damaged irreparably as a result of radiotherapy and will die therefore die entirely.
The immune system gets rid of the damaged cells from the body when they die and radiation therapy needs time to be effective and usually needs to be delivered in multiple doses. Days or weeks of treatment are needed before cancer cells sustain enough DNA damage to result in cellular death.
WHEN IS RADIOTHERAPY USED TO TREAT CANCER?
Radiation therapy is a highly effective cancer treatment with a plethora of uses in the treatment of various cancers. Radiotherapy can cure some early stage cancers and relieve symptoms or prolongs survival in more advanced cancers. Many cancers throughout the body can often be partially or in some cases, almost totally treated with radiotherapy; sometimes alongside other treatments like chemotherapy and immunotherapy and other times on its own..
Radiation therapy is a highly targeted treatment meaning that it can be focused on the cancer cells that need to be targeted and destroyed. This allows the cancer cells to be killed or reduced in number whilst avoiding the surrounding healthy tissue.
Radiation therapy contributes to 40% of all successful cancer treatments world-wide as well as improving the quality of life for many others.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF RADIOTHERAPY?
Radiation therapy is a localised treatment. This means that it is intended to only affect the specific area of the body that is targeted.
Common physical side effects of radiation therapy include:
- Skin changes. In the area being treated by radiation therapy, some patients experience dryness, itching, blistering, or peeling of the skin. Radiation-induced skin changes typically disappear a few weeks after the course of treatment. Additionally, it is best to shield exposed skin from the sun
- Fatigue. Even if you are getting enough rest and sleep, you can still feel physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. This feeling is referred to as fatigue. Many patients are worn out. If you are receiving more than one type of cancer treatment, your level of fatigue might rise
- Long-term side effects. Most side effects go away after treatment. But some continue, come back, or develop later. These are called long-term or late effects. One possible late effect of radiation therapy is the development of a second cancer. This is a new type of cancer that develops, sometimes due to the original cancer treatment. The risk of this late effect is low, but ask your health care team what signs of a second cancer you should watch for
TYPES OF RADIOTHERAPY OUR PARTNERS OFFER
Much like other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy, there are different types of radiotherapy that may be used in the course of cancer treatment. Which a patient is given and when will depend upon a number of factors including the precise nature of their cancer, where it is in the body and any potential side effects.
Our partners use world-leading technologies and radiation treatment methods.
The CyberKnife System is a non-invasive treatment for tumours. Most visceral organs can be treated with it. It can also be used as an alternative to surgery for people who have inoperable or difficult-to-treat tumours. Treatments with the CyberKnife typically take 1 to 5 sessions.
When is CyberKnife Used?
With the CyberKnife, patients can lay comfortably on the operating table without receiving any anaesthesia as the robotic arm moves to treat the entire tumour without coming in contact with them. Given the low risk of complications and harm to healthy tissue, recovery is frequently immediate.
What Are The Risks of CyberKnife?
The majority of radiation side effects are mild and transient. Some side effects include:
- breathing problems
- Hemoptysis (bloody cough)
- radiogenic pneumonitis
- Nuclear fibrosis
- exposure to nearby tissue, including airways
TrueBeam delivers a radiation beam that specifically targets the cancer while minimising exposure to healthy cells. The non-invasive TrueBeam rotates around the patient to deliver the radiation dose from various angles without requiring any cuts. Not all forms of cancer are suitable. Treatments typically last 10 minutes or less. The time saved not only improves the patient experience but also reduces the likelihood that the patient will move around during the procedure.
When is TrueBeam Used?
The Varian TrueBeam system's main benefits are simplicity, accuracy, and speed. The TrueBeam system is versatile and can be used to treat a wide range of tumors, including those in sensitive locations like the abdomen, liver, lung, breast, and head and neck.
Side Effects of TrueBeam
Side effects include diarrhoea, nausea, swelling at the treatment site, red and irritated skin, lymphedema (swelling of lymph nodes) and secondary cancer.
The Radixact System targets tumours regardless of location in the body, without the side effects of other treatments. The system provides greater control of the radiation dose so it conforms precisely to the tumour shame and helps minimise exposure to healthy tissue.
When is Radixact Used?
Because of its precision, radiation oncologists can deliver higher, effective doses of radiation directly to the tumour. Treatment is delivered continuously from 360 degrees around or delivered at fixed angles. Non-invasive, outpatient treatment with the Radixact System offers relatively lower patient costs compared to those of inpatient treatment, recovery and follow-up care for more interventional treatments.
What Are The Side Effects of Radixact?
While every treatment has risks, IG-IMRT with the Radixact System is proven to help reduce the side effects while treating a wide range of indications. Side effects may vary depending on the area of the body being treated, but should dissipate shortly after treatment concludes.
A course of radiotherapy usually lasts 5 days a week for 1-8 weeks.
There is a broad range of effective doses of radiation depending on the type of cancer. Your oncologist will adjust the dose as needed depending on how the tumour responds to treatment.
The area being treated with radiation therapy should not be exposed to direct sunlight for at least a year following treatment. Once therapy is complete, sunscreen should be applied to this area frequently.