There are many articles that talk about cancer and treatments for cancers.  Many are written in terms that the average person can’t fully comprehend.  This series of articles will discuss radiation therapy and how it is used to treat cancer.  It is difficult to get a cancer diagnosis for you or someone you love only to find that one of the main treatment options needs a medical degree to understand.  That is where articles like this help.

When treating cancer a term that is often used is radiation.  Many people will ask if the patient will be going through chemotherapy, radiation or a combination.  The problem is that the answer that is given is usually a combination or radiation alone but the reality is the patient hardly understands what that means.  Cancer treatments deserve to be spoken about in terms that all patients can understand and explain to their loved ones.

What exactly is radiation therapy?

In order to fully understand radiation therapy it is important to grasp exactly what radiation is.  There are two main definitions of radiation both which apply when discussing radiation therapy.

1)      Radiation is the discharge of energy in waves or the travel of subatomic particles, particles even smaller than an atom itself.  Most often radiation is used to describe ionization, generally speaking the process that an atom takes to form ions.  An ion is an atom that has either a positive or negative charge.  Positive ions are bad and negative ions are good.

2)      Radiation is also used to convey discharge outward from one central location.

In radiation therapy there are multiple types of radiation that can be used to shrink tumors and kill cancerous cells: x-rays, gamma rays and charged (negatively) particles.  High amounts of radiation in any of the three forms is delivered in treatment.

The process of radiation therapy occurs in one of two different methods.  The first method of radiation delivery is with the use of a machine such as a linear accelerator.  A linacs machine delivers radiation outside of the body.  This is known as external (outside) beam radiation therapy; literally a beam of radiation is sent through to the inside of your body.

The second method in which radiation can be delivered through sealed radioactive material that is placed close to the cancerous cells within the body.  This is often referred to as internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy.

Another form of radiation therapy is systemic radiation therapy which distributes radioactive substances that travels through the blood to kill cancerous cells.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer there is a good chance that you will require some form of radiation therapy; in fact fifty percent of cancer patients do receive radiation therapy at one point or another during their treatment plan.  Not all radiation therapy uses linear accelerator equipment in delivery.  There are multiple methods of distributing radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells.

We will further our discussion on radiation therapy for cancer treatments in out next installment.  Patience experiencing radiation therapy deserve to understand in greater detail the treatment they are receiving.

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