Radiation Therapy For Cancer

Radiation Therapy For Cancer

Using ionized energy to kill cells, radiation therapy is used by half of all patients to treat cancer. Radiation kills cancer cells by damaging their genetic material beyond repair, causing them to breakdown and die. Both short- and long-term side effects, such as hair and memory loss, can occur when the therapy kills healthy cells. Different types of radiation exist. When a machine outside the body delivers it, it is called external-beam radiation therapy. If radioactive materials are placed inside the body, it is called internal radiation therapy, or brachytherapy. You can also receive an injection of radioactive iodine, which travels through the body to kill cancer cells, a treatment called systemic radiation therapy. When cancer cant be cured, radiation therapy can be used to shrink tumors to make life more comfortable for a patient. Doctors may use radiation treatments alone or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer cells.

Recently Answered

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    A Dr Michael E. Seiff, MD, Neurosurgery, answered on behalf of Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center
    What Are Gamma Knife and CyberKnife Radiosurgery?
    Gamma knife and CyberKnife are two forms of radiosurgery for the brain, says Michael Seiff, MD, a neurosurgeon at Sunrise Hospital. In this video, he explains that radiosurgery is the use of many beams of radiation to target tumors.
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    A Dr Susan McCloskey, MD, Radiation Oncology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Radiation therapy consistently decreases the risk for breast cancer recurrence by about 50% to 70%. This does not only affect local recurrence but also has a breast cancer-specific survival benefit. Radiation therapy works by damaging the DNA of cancer cells, which is the genetic material that cancer itself uses to grow and divide. Cancer cells can’t repair that damage, so they die. Radiation therapy takes about 10 minutes a day, and a typical course of radiation is about six and a half weeks on average.
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    A Dr Susan McCloskey, MD, Radiation Oncology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Breast radiation therapy is delivered daily, Monday to Friday, typically over approximately 6.5 weeks, but may be as short as 1 week or 3 weeks depending on your particular breast cancer. Radiation delivery takes approximately 10-15 minutes each day and you will be given a treatment time each day that is convenient for you. When you come for your daily radiation treatment, with the assistance of an expert team of radiation therapists, you will be positioned in the same position that you were in for simulation with your arms above your head supported by a cradle. You do see around you. The radiation treatment delivery itself lasts only few minutes. Radiation therapy delivery is painless. You won’t be able to see or feel the radiation beam. You will also not feel sick during or immediately afterwards. You are not radioactive and you will not be a danger to anyone during or after your course of radiation therapy.
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    A Dr Tania Kaprealian, MD, Radiation Oncology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    A multileaf collimator is used to shape the beams of radiation to the individual tumors. The multileaf collimator is in the head of the radiation machine, and they are like fingerlike projections which can move throughout the treatment to shape to the tumor. In that way, the dose is delivered precisely while sparing normal structures in the brain. 
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    A Dr. Isaac Yang, MD, Neurosurgery, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Cyber knife surgery is not the same as gamma knife surgery, but they're very similar. Radiosurgery is the umbrella term. If you receive radiation in a lot of fractions, it is called radiotherapy. But if you receive it in five fractions or fewer, it is called radiosurgery. It is exactly the same radiation tactic, but the differing number of fractions will determine if it is called radiosurgery or radiotherapy.

    There are different kinds of branding for radiosurgery and radiotherapy. One of them, the oldest and most well studied, is gamma knife. Cyber knife surgery is another kind of radiosurgery or radiotherapy. It's essentially just a different brand name although a very similar procedure.
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    A Dr. Isaac Yang, MD, Neurosurgery, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Doctors know that radiotherapy is fairly safe in terms of side effects for 20 or 30 years. However, they don’t really know the long-term outcomes from radiation. Therefore, if you're in your mid-20s and are treated with radiation, you are likely to be okay for the first 20 or 30 years. However, there is no way to predict what will happen when you're 80 or 90. Radiation-induced malignancies occur when a person who has no tumors is given a lot of radiation. However, that risk is extremely low with radiosurgery and radiotherapy, although it is not zero.
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    A Dr. Isaac Yang, MD, Neurosurgery, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Gamma knife surgery is a particular brand of radiosurgery that can be used to treat acoustic neuromas. During gamma surgery, doctors need to put a gamma knife Leksell frame onto the person’s head. This is done by screwing four screws into the person’s skull to hold the frame in place. The doctor will numb those areas.

    In linear accelerator-based radiosurgery, screws are not put into a person’s skull. Instead, doctors use a thermal plastic mask, essentially a plastic mask that is fitted exactly to the person’s face, and this holds the person's head steady.
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    You may want to ask your doctor these questions before having radiation therapy for cancer:
    • Why do I need this treatment?
    • When will the treatments begin? How often will they be given? When will they end?
    • How will I feel during treatment? Will I be able to continue my normal activities?
    • Will there be side effects? How long will they last?
    • Can radiation therapy cause side effects later on?
    • What can I do to take care of myself during treatment?
    • How will we know if the radiation treatment is working?
    • How often will I need checkups?
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    Systemic radiation therapy is used to treat cancer. With this type of therapy, the person with cancer swallows or receives injections of radioactive substance. This substance helps destroy cancer cells throughout the body. Radioactive iodine, a specific type of systemic radiation, is commonly used for thyroid cancer. Other types of systemic radiation may be used for hematological cancers.
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    APenn Medicine answered
    Volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT) is a type of specialized intensity modulated radiation therapy. VMAT delivers radiation by rotating the radiation machine, through one or more arcs while radiation is continuously delivered.

    VMAT allows doctors to treat complex cancers while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. VMAT shortens radiation delivery time and offers people with cancer more comfort because it does not require them to lie completely still for long periods of time.