What is radiotherapy treatment?

In today’s fast paced world, cancer is one of the leading causes of death, not only in Australia, but on a global scale. Those afflicted with cancer have several options in terms of treatment based on what is prescribed by an oncologist. Radiotherapy is one of these cancer treatment plans.

Radiotherapy is a type of cancer treatment plan that utilizes radiation like x-rays, protons, electron beams, or gamma rays to destroy cancer cells and prevent them from growing or multiplying. In addition to that, radiotherapy can also be used in the treatment of benign or non-cancerous tumours as well as some blood disorders and thyroid disease.

There are two types of radiotherapy: external and internal. Both types however provide local treatment wherein only the cancer cells in the treated area are affected.

External radiotherapy involves the use of a machine which radiates radiation beams on the area that needs treatment. This type of radiotherapy is usually done on an outpatient basis and patients receiving the treatment do not become radioactive during or after the process. Also, external radiotherapy is totally painless.

Internal radiotherapy on the other hand requires the insertion of a little bit of radioactive material close to the cancerous cells inside the body. This type of radiotherapy can also be given as a radioactive liquid that is either injected or swallowed. Similar to external radiotherapy, internal radiotherapy is also relatively painless but the insertion of the implant can sometime bring about mild levels of discomfort. Unlike the first type of radiotherapy, the patient getting the treatment needs to stay in the hospital and is only discharged once the radiation in the implant has gone down to safe levels.

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Similar to other cancer treatment plans, radiotherapy also has its share of side effects. These however depend on the dosage of the treatment, the type and size of the cancer, and its location in the body. The most common side effects of radiotherapy are loss of appetite, tiredness, and rashes or redness in the area being treated.

Barring these side effects, radiotherapy is considered as a very effective treatment for cancer and is being used in four out of ten cancer patients.

For further details on health related matters, please get in touch with NSW Health.