You may be aware of the advance that has been made in the fight against cancer in the last recent decades. In addition to progress in chemotherapy and surgery, research against cancer also progresses in the field of radiation therapy (radiotherapy). For nearly a century, radiation has been a useful tool against cancerous diseases. It was, nevertheless, less controlled. However, in recent years, radiation therapy has been seen remarkable success. Thanks to advances in medical imaging, the volume of irradiation is becoming better defined which makes surrounding healthy tissues better preserved. In fact, it is now possible for radiologists to perform a custom radiation therapy to select the dose of radiation which is most suited to attack the tumor.
The methodology of radiation is much simpler than chemotherapy and surgery. After all preparation for the therapy is done, the tumor will be exposed to radiation emission to alter the composition of genetic information (DNA) of the cancer cells. Once their DNA is damaged, cancer cells are unable to reproduce, thereby reducing uncontrolled reproduction of these malignant cells. Normal cells may also be affected by the radiation. When a large number of healthy cells are damaged, side effects may emerge – see Radiation Side Effects for more information.
Today, over 50 % of cancer patients receive radiation therapy. The therapy can be used alone or in combination with other therapies. In most cases, radiotherapy is associated with surgery or chemotherapy. It can be performed before surgery to shrink the size of the tumor, or after to eliminate residual tumor cells and reduce the risk of recurrence. The choice to perform the therapy before or after surgery depends on your oncologist based on the type of cancer you have and its characteristic. It is important to take the radiation therapy as recommended by your doctor; take each session as prescribed, and finish the therapy completely.