Radiation Oncology

Radiation therapy is one of the most important treatment options for patients suffering from cancer. The treatment is effective alone or in combination with other procedures, such as chemotherapy or surgery. It involves the use of high-energy radiation that kills cancer cells. The types of radiation used in radiation therapy are x-rays, protons, gamma rays, and electron beams. Depending upon the type and severity of cancer and the patient's overall health, radiation therapy may be internal (brachytherapy) or external (through external beam radiation). During External Beam Radiation Therapy, radiation is delivered to the cancerous site using a machine called Linear Accelerator (LA). The gantry of the machine moves around the body during treatment without touching the patient. Internal radiation therapy (Brachytherapy) involves inserting a radioactive material source, i.e., a seed, wire, catheter, needle, etc., into or near the cancer site for a few minutes.

Our physicians plan meticulously to minimize the chance of any side effects. Our expert team of physicists and dosimetrists ensures complete safety while performing the radiation therapies with highly sophisticated equipment and computers. An oncologist may prescribe radiation therapy before, during, or after surgery, depending on the treatment strategy devised collaboratively by the medical team. Our team of expert oncologists starts the design for each patient’s complete, personalized treatment plan with a simulation. The simulation begins by using detailed imaging scans to determine the location, size, and shape of the tumor in the body.

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The side effects of radiation therapy depend upon the site of treatment:

  • Head and Neck: Oral problems, change in taste, trouble swallowing, hair loss, less active thyroid gland, and fatigue
  • Brain: Nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, headache, problem in concentration, and skin changes
  • Stomach and abdomen: Fatigue, diarrhea, urinary problems, nausea, and vomiting
  • Rectum: Infertility, urinary problems, sexual problems
  • Chest: Cough, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing

Radiation therapy is a highly effective option for the management of cancer. However, the efficacy of radiation therapy depends upon the type, stage, and treatment response of the cancer. In many cases, a success rate of about 90% and above can be achieved. In advanced cancer, radiation therapy specialists may increase the radiation dose to obtain better results.

  • Systemic radiation therapy: In this procedure, the oncologists prescribe intravenous radioactive fluids or oral radioactive pills for treating certain types of cancer. For example, patients may be prescribed radioactive iodine (I-131) capsules for thyroid cancer. Similarly, in bone cancer, the oncologists may deliver intravenous radioactive material to reduce the pain induced by the cancer.
  • Radioprotectors: Certain drugs protect other organs from the damaging effects of radiation therapy. These drugs help in minimizing the side effects of radiation therapy.
  • Radiosensitizers: These drugs enhance the sensitivity of cancer cells to radiation therapy and increase its efficacy. Doctors can kill more tumor cells by combining radiation therapy with Radiosensitizers,
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy: In some cases, radiation therapy is delivered in between the surgery. It is done when the site of cancer is close to vital organs. The doctors, during surgery, remove the organs from the path of radiation and prevent their exposure.

In external radiation therapy, the radiation is directed to the site of cancer through the skin with the help of a machine called a linear accelerator. There are several types of external radiation therapy. These are Three-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy (3D-CRT), Proton Beam Therapy, Neutron Beam Therapy, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Stereotactic Radiotherapy, and Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT).

Internal radiation therapy is also known as brachytherapy. The radiation therapy specialist places a radioactive material near the cancer cells (tumor) that deliver the radiation to the tumor cells. The radioactive material can be placed near the tumor in the form of ribbons, wires, seeds, and capsules.