1 July 2009
The next modality of treatment used in the management of cancer is radiotherapy. Radiotherapy involves the delivery of high energy radiation or X-rays to a specific part of the body with cancer. It is often wrongly referred to as 'laser' or 'current' treatment.
There are also a few types of radiotherapy. Radical radiotherapy is the use of radiotherapy as the main modality of treatment to cure the cancerous tumour, and is usually of high dose, typically daily for a duration of six to eight weeks.
Adjuvant radiotherapy is when the radiation treatment is given as an adjunct after the main treatment, usually surgery, to sterilise possible microscopic residual disease in the tumour bed. Palliative radiotherapy is radiation treatment delivered just to relieve the symptoms of advanced and incurable cancer.
The radiation treatments itself are painless. The actual treatment takes only a few minutes but the whole session can last 15 to 30 minutes due to the time required to set up the equipment and position the patient.
The side effects of radiotherapy depend on the part of the body receiving the radiation, the radiation dose and the size of the treatment fields.
The effects usually manifest after a few weeks of starting the radiation treatment although some side effects may only be seen many years later. Most are temporary and reversible after treatment although some side effects may be permanent.