WHAT IS RADIATION THERAPY
Understanding the Technology
Radiation therapy is one of the most common ways to treat cancer that is both safe and effective. It utilizes high-energy particles or waves such as X-rays, gamma rays or electron beams to damage or destroy cancer cells.
How Radiation Cancer Therapy Works
When a patient receives radiation therapy, the radiation destroys cancer cells by damaging their DNA (the molecules inside cells that carry genetic information and pass it on from one generation to the next). When the DNA of cancer cells are damaged beyond repair, the cells stop dividing or die.
Radiation Affects Both Normal Cells and Cancer Cells
In addition to damaging cancer cells, radiation therapy can also damage normal cells, which can lead to undesirable side effects. The potential damage to normal cells is always taken into consideration by doctors when planning treatment with radiation therapy.
Although radiation affects both cancer and normal cells, it has a greater effect on the cancer cells. This is due to the fact that normal cells can repair themselves in a way cancer cells cannot. Dr. Huang will carefully develop a treatment plan to deliver the radiation precisely to the tumor area while shielding as much of the surrounding normal tissue as possible.
Uses for Radiation Cancer Therapy
Dr. Huang may recommend using radiation therapy in several different ways. If the goal is to cure the patient of cancer, radiation therapy can be used to:
- Destroy tumors which have not spread to other parts of the body to cure the patient of the disease.
- Reduce the probability that cancer will return once the patient undergoes surgery or chemotherapy by destroying small amounts of cancer than might remain.
- Shrink the cancer before surgery.
In other cases, the goal is to reduce the symptoms caused by growing cancers and to improve the patient’s quality of life. When used for this purpose, radiation therapy is called palliative care or palliation. In this type of case, the radiation may be used to:
Shrink tumors that are interfering with the patient’s quality of life like a tumor in the lung that is causing breathing difficulties.
The Safety of Radiation Therapy
Radiation has been used successfully in the treatment of cancer for over 100 years. During that time, many advancements have been made to ensure this therapy is safe and effective. Before starting this therapy, the patient’s treatment will be carefully planned to focus on the cancer while avoiding healthy organs in the area.
At Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, we utilize an all-digital treatment system called an Elekta Synergy linear accelerator. This enables us to deliver a faster, more accurate treatment with the least amount of radiation affecting healthy tissue. Using 3D computer imaging technology, we can accurately target tumors and store the precise locations for future treatments. This results in more aggressive treatment of tumors and less damage to surrounding tissue.
Your First Visit
During your first visit to our office, Dr. Huang will meet with you to discuss your treatment in detail to ensure you understand the goals of your treatment. We encourage you to ask questions and bring up any concerns you may have. We are committed to always speaking honestly and openly with you. If you have any questions about your first visit or radiation therapy, please do not hesitate tocontact us as we are always available to speak with you.
*Some content provided by the American Society of Radiation Oncology and/or Elekta Oncology.