According to the World Health Organization, cancer is amongst the leading causes of deaths, globally. The number of cancer related deaths are on an ever incline and are expected to reach over 13 million in 2030.
Whereas in some cases lifestyle habits are to be blamed for cancer, in other instances, the lack of access and resources is the problem. Unless diagnosed timely, cancer can spread to other parts of the body, and thus become terminal.
Hence, regular screenings after the age for 50 are suggested by the doctors. Alongside physical examination, it involves getting imaging tests done; however, quality of the results is important. Do not skimp on your health and get an MRI in Islamabad from a well reputed lab only.
Once cancer is diagnosed timely, the treatment options available are more. One such treatment available for the cancer patients is Radiation Therapy.
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy is an aggressive treatment approach. It involves using radiation –mostly X-rays –to kill cancerous cells. These high energy beams of radiation are targeted on the cancer specific area using a machine.
However, in the other type of radiation therapy, known as brachytherapy, the source of radiation is placed inside of the body. The purpose of both these types of radiations is the same.
In radiation therapy, even though precision is attempted, normal cells can get damaged nonetheless in this process as well. It basically aims to impair the genetic material in the cells responsible for growth, thereby controlling the proliferation of the cancer cells.
It is not an instant process; radiation therapy requires several sessions to be effective. It can take even weeks of therapy to produce substantial results. However, it remains effective for some time as the number of anomalous cells decreases, so does their impact.
Factors affecting Radiation Therapy.
There are various factors that influence radiation therapy; both its usage in entirety and which type of therapy is done. The location of the tumor, it size, type and stage of cancer play and important role in determining the treatment.
Similarly, patient’s health also plays a crucial role. Their medical history, condition, existing cancer treatment regimen all influence the decision of whether to get the therapy and which type of therapy to get. Some patients, especially those in the last stages of cancer, are too weak to withstand the treatment and do not take it very well. Hence, it’s also contingent on the body’s response to the therapy.
What is the aim of Radiation Therapy?
Cancer treatment is seldom straight forward. A lot hinges on the type of cancer, its stage, how aggressive it is etc. Hence, while at times radiation therapy is used as a primary treatment to get rid of cancer from the very roots, other times it is an indirect treatment.
One of the aims of radiation therapy is to shrink the cancerous mass. As it kills the cells and stops their growth, it effectively decreases the size of the tumor as well. The tumor is then removed via surgery.
In another treatment option, radiation therapy is done in conjunction with chemotherapy for double and more robust attack against the cancer cells. However, in advanced stage patients, whose condition is terminal, radiation therapy aims to alleviate or at least decrease the symptoms of cancer. It thus helps the patient become more comfortable, but is not a cure per se.
Side effects of Radiation Therapy
While radiation therapy serves as a treatment option, it is not without tradeoffs of its own. There are many ill-wanted side effects of radiation therapy. These can manifest early on in the therapy sessions or later as well.
Hair loss is a common problem for treatment anywhere on the body. Skin irritation is also common. Patients also complain about fatigue due to the therapy. When directed at the head and neck region, it can affect taste buds, cause tooth decaying, result in problems with swallowing etc.
Similarly, the radiation aimed at pelvic and abdominal regions leads to digestive problems like diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, rectal bleeding etc. It also causes problems with sexual health in men and women, both.
When the thorax or chest gets treated with radiation, the side effect includes breathing problems, soreness of breasts, cough, and even permanent scar in lungs called radiation fibrosis.
In extreme cases, the late side effects of radiation include heart and lung problems, thyroid problems, lymphedema, hormonal problems and can even lead to cancer itself as well.
Suffice to say, cancer is a complicated condition. Not just the treatment is very painful, but once cured, the chances of relapse still exist. Hence, patients are advised to get follow-up CT scans in Lahore frequently, especially in the initial years after recovery.