What are some of the uses of radiotherapy ?

One of the overwhelming reasons to have radiotherapy, not only in Australia but anywhere else, is for the treatment of cancer.

One may have radiotherapy for curative purposes. An oncologist may prescribe radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer by destroying or damaging a cancerous tumor with the use of x-rays. This is called radical radiotherapy and the length of the treatment usually depends not only on the type of cancer and its size but also on where it is located.

In cases wherein it is no longer possible to cure cancer through radiotherapy, one can have it to reduce pain and relieve the symptoms. This type of radiotherapy is called palliative radiotherapy. Because it is only used as such, lower doses of radiation are given and are usually given over a shorter time frame.

One can also have radiotherapy as a treatment before surgery. There are cases when radiotherapy is given prior to a surgical procedure to make a tumor smaller. This way, the tumor becomes easier to remove. Not only that, it also reduces the risk of the spread of the cancer during the surgical procedure itself. This type of treatment is called preoperative radiotherapy and is commonly used in the treatment of certain cancers such as rectal cancer.

Some patients on the other hand have what is called postoperative surgery where radiotherapy is given after the surgery. This type of treatment aims to kill cancer cells that have remained or that may have been left behind after the operation. It also reduces the risk of the cancer returning and is frequently used in cancers of the head and neck area and breast cancer.

Lastly, and in other cases, patients have total body irradiation (TBI). This is a type of radiotherapy treatment given to patients with certain types of lymphoma or leukaemia prior to them getting a bone marrow transplant. The procedure involves the whole body being subjected to radiation for the sole purpose of destroying the bone marrow cells. The patient is then given new bone marrow taken from a donor or from the patient himself before the radiotherapy.