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A Beginner’s Guide to Radiotherapy



Radium was first discovered by the Curies, and since then, it has come a long way in assisting people in overcoming cancers. It was Alexander Graham Bell who first suggested that radium be used to combat malignant tumors, and when the radiograph was invented in 1895, medical professionals became more and more interested in using this material to treat cancers, although it was still difficult to put the material to use since doctors still did not have a sound manner to use measure the dosages required.

With the development of Courtyard’s method of fractionation (which allowed him to divide dosages into smaller portions), as well as high energy supervoltage, it was finally possible to begin using this treatment option to combat cancer, and it is still being used today.

The Basics of Radiotherapy

Cancerous cells divide extremely rapidly, and when radiotherapy is administered, it tackles these cells in particular. In order to achieve this aim, the radiation destroys the DNA of the cells so that they no longer have the road map that tells them how to divide, and this ultimately kills them off. Many of the healthy cells within the body tend to die off along with the cancerous cells, and this tends to make people feel ill; for this reason, treatments are often administered in cycles to allow the patient some time to recover before administering the next round of radiotherapy.

Undergoing Radiotherapy

Certain treatments, such as chemotherapy, are administered in a manner that allows it to spread throughout the body, but this is not the case with radiotherapy; this form of treatment means that it is specific to a localized point within the body. In terms of administering the treatment, this can be accomplished by either directing a certain amount of radiation from outside of the body to a specific point or implanting the treatment inside of the body.

Dealing with the Side Effects

The side effects of radiotherapy tend to differ, depending on the person, the type of cancer that is being treated, the condition that the patient is in, and a range of other facets. In most cases, the side effects of this treatment are specific to the area that the radiation is being directed to. Due to these side effects, oncologists usually monitor the progress of the patient to determine how they are doing throughout their treatment, and whether the treatment is working for them.

It is thought that about 50% of cancer patients will undergo this form of treatment at some point or another due to the effective nature of this alternative. In some instances, chemotherapy and radiation are combined to give the patient a good chance of fighting the illness.

Is Radiation Working?

To determine whether this treatment option is working, medical professionals will often turn to MRIs, Pet Scans and CT scans to determine whether the tumor is reacting; if it is, the medical professional will also have to make a decision concerning how well the treatment is working, and whether it is going to be sufficient to combat the illness altogether.