Radiation Therapy for Cancer in Alabama
Radiation therapy is used to treat cancer by exposing the cancer cells to radiation and damaging their DNA. Radiation may be used alone or with other treatment options. Radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells right away. It takes days, weeks, or months of treatment before DNA is damaged enough for cancer cells to die. Tissue cells respond differently to radiation and some organs are more susceptible to damage caused by the radiation than others. A radiation oncologist will schedule image scans to determine the location and size of the suspected tumor and then discuss your treatment plan. If you have previously received radiation therapy, then your physician will decide if that area can be treated a second time. This will depend on the amount of radiation you received and the location of the previous treatment.
There are several different types of radiation therapy a radiation oncologist may prescribe depending on the type and size of the cancer, its location in the body, and the overall health of the patient. The types of radiation therapy include:
Types of Radiation Therapy
IGRT is image-guided radiation therapy, a technique which enables the Radiation Oncologist to locate the tumor before each dose of radiation therapy is delivered.
- IMRT is an image-guided radiation therapy which allows the Radiation Oncologist to pinpoint the radiation on the tumor. This technique spares more normal tissue exposed to radiation during treatment.
- MammoSite is designed for the treatment of early-stage breast cancer patients who meet certain criteria. This specialized treatment consists of 10 treatments within 5 days. MammoSite will deliver a high dose of radiation to the area most at risk for recurrence. In addition, it limits the radiation dose to the surrounding normal breast and adjacent tissues, potentially minimizing side effects.
- Prostate Brachytherapy is a treatment for early-stage prostate cancer. This procedure is an ultrasound-guided implantation of radioiodine seeds into the prostate. It is a one-time procedure and is performed on an outpatient basis and takes approximately 2 hours.
The type of radiation therapy that you may receive depends on many factors including:
- The type of cancer
- The size of the tumor
- The location in the body
- How close the tumor is to other tissues in the body that may be sensitive to radiation
- General health, age, and medical history
- Whether or not other treatments will be included
Radiation therapy side effects
Radiation not only kills or slows the growth of cancer cells, but it can also affect nearby healthy cells, causing side effects. Many people who get radiation therapy have fatigue. Fatigue, the feeling of exhaustion and being worn out, can come on quickly or slowly get worse over time. While fatigue is the number one side effect of radiation therapy there are many more depending on what part of the body is being treated. Some of these side effects include but are certainly not limited to:
- Hair loss
- Memory or concentration issues
- Skin changes
- Shortness of breath
- Sexual issues
- Fertility issues
- Nausea and vomiting
Healthy cells that receive damage during radiation treatments usually recover within a few months after treatment has been completed. However, sometimes people may experience side effects that show up months or years after treatment, known as late effects. Late effects may differ depending on what part of the body you received treatment on, as well as genetics, other cancer treatments you’ve had, and other factors, such as smoking.