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What is Radiation Treatment?

An oncologist may order radiation therapy to prevent cancer from spreading in a patient's body.
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  • Written By: J.Gunsch
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2014
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Radiation treatment is a method of treating cancer by using high energy radioactive waves to destroy or injure cancerous cells. Malignant cells that make up a cancerous tumor tend to grow quickly and abnormally. Radiation treatment is designed to halt this growth by targeting and destroying the cancerous cell’s DNA, resulting in the death of the cells or the shrinking of the tumor. It does not usually destroy normal healthy cells, because they grow more slowly and are able to recover from any damage caused by the radiation.

There are two types of radiation treatment: external and internal. The external type is delivered externally to the body by a highly specialized machine. This machine targets and delivers radioactive rays to the specific part of the body affected by cancer. External radiation treatment only targets a tumor and a small percentage of surrounding healthy tissue. It may be used in conjunction with other treatments such as chemotherapy. In many cases, it is also used along with the surgical removal of the tumor to ensure that it does not reappear. It usually requires no hospital stay.

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Internal radiation treatment can be administered in two ways. One method of destroying cancer cells with this method is with radioactive implants. The radioactive element is contained in casings or catheters which are placed inside the body, either in the tumor itself or in the tumor bed where a tumor has been surgically removed. Internal radiation treatment can also be administered through ingestion or injection. In this case, the radioactive substance is not contained in any form, and treatment usually requires a relatively long hospital stay.

A radiation oncologist is the physician that coordinates and manages a patient’s treatment. The radiation oncologist is the patient’s primary doctor, but he or she works with a team of heath care professionals who carry out the administration of the radiation treatment. This team consists of a radiation physicist who works with the radiation machinery, a dosimetrist who calculates the proper dose of radiation, a radiation therapist who is similar to an x-ray technician and a radiation nurse whose job it is to educate the patient and his or her family members, as well as to provide nursing care.

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sunshined
Post 5

When a doctor tells you that you have cancer, the thoughts and emotions that go through your mind can be overwhelming.

Once you get over the initial shock of hearing those words, that is when you realize you need to seriously consider what your treatment options are.

When the doctor told me that I had breast cancer, it took awhile for that to really sink in. There was no history of this is my family and I had a hard time believing it was true.

I went through breast cancer radiation treatment and can say that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I had pretty well convinced myself that this was going to be absolutely horrible, and was expecting the worst.

Even though it did drain me and I had many days when I was tired, for the most part I was able to keep up with my regular work load. I learned to say no and to not push myself.

Something like this really helps you evaluate what is most important in your life. I realized how important it is to take care of myself and not push myself to do things that don't really make that much difference.

I am glad I had the radiation treatment and now have a clean bill of health. The side effect that I suffered seem minor now that I am past the critical time and have the energy I did before.

andee
Post 4

I have several friends and family members who have gone through external radiation therapy treatment. All of them have expressed the same thing - that this makes them feel very tired and fatigued.

This is something they don't notice right away, but the longer the treatments continue, the less energy they have. I have seen this happen with my dad and two of my aunts.

Once the radiation treatments are completed, it takes quite awhile before they get their energy level back. This is even worse if it is combined with any kind of chemotherapy treatment.

The chemotherapy and radiation treatment together can really make you feel sick, weak and tired. This is a hard process for everyone in the family, as it can be hard for family members to watch their loved ones go through this process.

summing
Post 3

So we all know that medicine is a rapidly changing science. Things they practiced 200 years ago now seem harsh, silly, gruesome and irrational. Think about the practice of bleeding people out, or using toxic substances as medicine.

In many cases we think that we have moved past the irrationality of the past and now we only use effective best practices. But I am sure that 20 years from now scientists will look at today's doctors and think they were stupid and inhumane. I think this is no more true than in the area of radiation therapy.

We have known for over 100 years that radiation has a toxic effect on the body. This is useful because it can kill cancer but it can kill a lot of other things too. Considering what a grueling treatment this is, I would not be surprised if future scientist think that we were just as reactionary and unscientific as the doctors in our own past.

truman12
Post 2

My mother had internal radiation therapy to treat her cancer. The treatment was successful and she is now in remission, but there were many times when the treatment seemed as bad as the disease.

During the course of the radiation my mother became especially weak. She suffered from extreme nausea, dizziness, fatigue and wild mood swings. For many house after a treatment she was essentially dead to the world. It was painful to watch. We just had to put our faith in the doctors that this intense treatment was necessary and effective.

It worked as I say. She is now doing much better and her cancer is on the run. But as much as I hope her cancer never comes back, I hope she never has to endure that treatment again.

anon624
Post 1

I wanted to find out if 15 minutes of radation therapy along with chemotheraphy is enough to make a person feel weak and sick.

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