How Can I Know if I’m a Candidate for Radiation Therapy?

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

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By: Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology

Radiation therapy is a form of cancer treatment that employs high doses of ionizing beams to shrink or destroy cancer cells and tumors. It’s proven to be effective in treating various types of cancers, and based on radiation therapy studies, about 60 percent of cancer cases necessitate the use of radiotherapy.

Why only 60 percent?

Radiation Therapy Is Not Suitable For Every Patient

Certain factors are taken into account as your oncologist considers the best course of treatment for you. These include:

The stage, type and location of cancer. Radiation therapy targets a specific point of the body, so it may be more applicable in earlier stages of the malignancy. In advanced stages, cancer spreads to different areas of the body, making it hard for highly targeted radiation to be used. Also, some types of cancer respond very well to radiation treatment, including:

  • Breast
  • Prostate
  • Head and Neck
  • Cervical and Endometrium
  • Skin and Lip
  • Hodgkin’s disease and local extranodal lymphoma
  • Seminoma of testis and dysgerminoma of the ovary
  • Medulloblastoma, pineal germinoma and ependymoma
  • Retinoblastoma
  • Choroidal melanoma

Patient state of health and preexisting conditions. Before undergoing therapy, a patient should be screened to determine if they are high-risk for the procedure. It’s not advised if you’re identified as a high-risk patient (e.g., pregnancy, frailty).

Radiation Therapy Treatment Plan

There are diverse ways of utilizing radiation therapy for cancer, and your best treatment plan will depend on the goal of treatment or the best approach to the cancer. Generally, the most common goal is tumor reduction and cancer remission.

Curing or shrinking malignancies. In some cases, radiation itself can do the job of shrinking your tumor or making it disappear entirely. However, it can also be used in combination with other strategies for a more effective result. Sometimes, chemotherapeutic drugs or chemotherapy are administered before or along with radiation to further increase the chances of curing the cancer.

With procedures involving surgery, if the aim is to shrink the tumor, radiation is performed before the operation. On the other hand, radiotherapy after surgery is done to prevent a recurrence. To get the most suitable treatment plan, discuss the available options with your cancer care team.

Three types of radiotherapy. If you’re a candidate for radiation, your therapy can be delivered in three ways:

  1. External radiation – A noninvasive procedure using a machine, like CyberKnife, that specifically targets a tumor using high-energy rays. Safety precautions are not required.
  2. Internal radiationBrachytherapy involves the insertion of a radioactive material inside the body near the tumor. The patient is expected to emit radiation for a considerable amount of time. Safety precautions should be exercised during this period.
  3. Systemic radiation – Oral or intravenous administration of radioactive drugs. Safety precautions should be practiced for a period of time.

Radiation therapy has come a long way. Advances in radiation oncology have paved the way for newer and more cutting-edge technologies that challenge the conventional approach to cancer treatment.