Radiation therapy involves using specific energy carried by waves or streams of particles in order to treat numerous types of cancer. When it involves radiation there are several different levels of energy. All of us have been exposed to certain low levels of radiation through things like the sun and x-rays. Higher levels of radiation energy however can be used in the treatment of cancers and other illnesses. Radiation therapy takes and makes use of these high-energy rays and particles to treat cancer.
By definition cancer is a tumor which consists of an overgrowth of abnormal cells. As the abnormal cells grow they multiply and begin to divide quickly producing new cancerous tumor cells. This ability, to multiply and divide without any limits and take over normal cells, makes cancerous cells different.
There are numerous types of cancers. Each different cancer is unique in how it grows and reacts to treatment. Radiation therapy is just one type of treatment for cancer. It helps treat cancer by interfering with the cell’s ability to multiple and divide. In high doses, radiation, defeats cancer by stopping the growth of further cells and killing the existing cancerous cells.
There are four main approaches to treating cancer including: radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy and biological therapy. No two cancers are alike therefore no two treatments are alike. Cancers are each unique, research has helped physicians determine the treatment or combination of treatments that is most useful in treatment. Surgery may be used in combination with radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or biological therapy. In order to treat cancer or relieve patients from the undesirable symptoms of cancer, like bleeding or pain, radiation therapy is used.
Many types of cancer such as brain tumors, head and neck cancers, lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, rectal cancer, cervix cancer, uterine cancer, lymphoma and sarcoma are all commonly treated using radiation therapy.
There are two different manners in which radiation therapy can be given: external beam irradiation and brachytherapy, or internal radiation. External beams irradiation is the most common method of treating cancer using radiation. The treatment distributes radiation to specific, targeted areas of the body using a large machine similar to an x-ray machine called a linear accelerator. Treatment using linear accelerator equipment is given every day, Monday through Friday, for anywhere between one and eight weeks depending on the type of cancer and the reason why the patient is receiving treatment. It can be given between once a day to three times a day depending on the cancer that is being treated.
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