Treating Cancer: An Insight Into Understanding Radiation Therapy

Also known as radiotherapy, radiation therapy is a treatment that works with the use of high doses of radiation to target, damage cancer cells and shrink the tumours. Radiation is used at small doses in x-rays to view internal organs inside your body.

1. How Cancer Cells Are Formed

Cancer cells can increase because they do not lose their telomeres like healthy cells do when they divide or undergo mitosis which is the natural cell division of your cells where one cell or the parent cell divides into two daughter cells. Your healthy cells lose their telomeres which become undone for each cell division; once the telomeres reach a certain length, they lose their source of support and undergo cell death. This natural process allows your body to keep itself healthy.

2. Why Cancer Cells are Dangerous

Cancer cells keep dividing because they never die. This often results in the unusual behaviour of the cells. When your cells come together, they clump and keep growing, disrupting your body’s processes.

Since cancer cells have an irregular cell wall, they are often easily recognizable and targeted by radiation therapy.

3. How Radiation Therapy works

Radiation therapy uses high-energy waves or particles that are either x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams or protons that destroy or damage cancer cells. When you use radiation therapy, the particles target the cancer cells by creating small breaks in DNA, inside the cell. This breaking of the cancer cells keeps the cells from dividing, which leads to cell death-like healthy cells would behave.

Even though this process will typically affect non-cancerous cells, your cells will often recover and continue working healthily and naturally.

4. Chemotherapy vs Radiation Therapy

There is the use of medicines or drugs to damage cancer cells and render them non-invasive which is known as Chemotherapy.  When you are placed on standard chemotherapy treatment, you are given cytotoxic drugs that kill tumour cells. Chemotherapy drugs are designed to target cells at different phases of the cell cycle. Since cancer cells form new cells much quicker than normal healthy cells, chemotherapy drugs target them more accurately.

The disadvantage of chemotherapy concerning radiation is that it exposes the whole body to the drugs which affect the entire body and take time to recover. Radiation therapy is a local treatment with reduces the destruction of your healthy cells.

5. Types of Radiation Therapy

There are different types of radiation treatments that are administered in many ways. Systemic radiation therapy is the use of radioactive compounds administered through your veins and mouth. These treatments ensure that the radiation only travels through a small part of the body and collects in the area that the tumour is located. This ensures that the radioactive compounds have little effect on other parts of the body.

6. Are you a suitable candidate for radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is usually the only cancer treatment needed for most cancer patients. Today, more than half of people with cancer receive radiation therapy. Bring it up with your doctor and find out whether it’s the best treatment option for you.

7. The benefit of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is efficient and causes minimal damage because it targets cancer cells without destroying healthy cells. This ensures that your body is not under extreme stress. The use of radiation in cancer treatment is driven by the type of cancer which dictates the dose of the radiation. High doses are used in cancer treatment to damage cancer cells or slow down their growth by damaging their DNA.