Each year around 14 million cases of cancer spring up globally. It is estimated that radiation therapy heals 3.5 million people and provides palliative relief for another 3.5 million people. These approximations have been made based on the fact that radiation therapy has benefitted over 50 percent of all cancer patients.
What Is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy employs the high-energy particles or waves, such as X-rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons to kill the cancer cells. The radiation is delivered by the linear accelerators which customize the high-energy x-rays or protons to adhere to the tumor’s shape and eliminate cancer cells but being mindful of the surrounding normal tissue. The radiation might be delivered from outside the body or a radioactive material placed inside the body near the cancer cells. This is called internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy.
The systematic radiation therapy makes use of radioactive substances that travel in the blood killing the cancer cells. One such element is the radioactive iodine.
Almost all the cancer patients use radiation during their treatment period. These radiations deploy oncology equipment to operate the patients.
How Does Radiation Therapy Kill Cancer Cells?
The rays from the linear accelerator destroy the DNA of the cells. Either it destroys the DNA itself or creates charged particles within the cells to do the damaging. The ruined DNA is unable to repair itself or divide. The linear accelerator uses electricity forming a stream of fast moving particles.
The linear accelerator or LINAC is cures cancers of all types. Patients lie on an adjustable and movable couch. With the help of spatially calibrated lasers and X-ray imaging panels the beam in maneuvered. The couch too can be adjusted with sub-millimeter accuracy.
The several other oncology equipment employed are:
- 3-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy (3D-CRT)
Many sophisticated machines and software target the affected region by this method.
- Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy
Several tiny radiation beam-shaping devices, called collimators, deliver a single dose of radiation. These devices might be stationary or move in order to control the intensity. IMRT is planned in reverse, which means the oncologist picks the radiation dose to different areas of the tumor and surrounding tissue. After this, a high-powered computer program calculates the required number of beams for the treatment.
- Image-Guided Radiation Therapy
Iterative image scans are performed which are then processed by computers to identify the size and location of the tumor. The treatment and dosage is then done accordingly. This method increases the accuracy of the treatment.
These are just a few of the many forms of the oncology equipment the doctor’s use. The doctors though have to be careful about the dosage, one dose of the total dosage given. That is twice a day. Doctors have to be careful since
- The damage to the normal tissues should be minimized.
- To ensure that the likelihood of the radiation hitting the DNA of the cancer cell are on the point where damage would be maximum.
Patients receive radiation before, during or after the surgery. After the treatment the patients receive a follow-up by their oncologist to monitor their health.
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