External-beam radiation therapy is a local treatment, which means that it treats a specific part of the body. For example, if you have lung cancer, you will receive radiation only to your chest, not to your entire body. Pregnant women should not receive radiation therapy because it can harm an unborn baby. Depending on the amount of radiation that an area has already been treated with, you may not be able to receive radiation therapy in that area a second time.
The radiation therapist will give you the external beam treatment according to the instructions of the radiation oncologist. Pain caused by cancer that has spread to the bones can be treated with systemic radiation therapy drugs called radiopharmaceuticals. To help you in this process, below is a list of questions you may want to ask your radiation oncologist if you are considering radiation therapy. The radiation therapist can move the treatment machine and treatment table to direct the radiation beam to the exact area of the tumor.
Radiation oncologists help identify and treat any side effects that may occur due to radiation therapy. You may have different side effects depending on the type of cancer you have and where in your body radiation therapy is being given. They will talk with you about the details of your cancer, the role of radiation therapy in your overall treatment plan, and what to expect from treatment. Once the diagnosis has been made, you will likely talk to your primary care doctor and several cancer specialists, such as a surgeon, a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist, to discuss your treatment options.
Because radiation beams are very precisely directed, nearby normal tissue receives less radiation and can heal quickly. Radiation therapy after mastectomy may be recommended to kill any cancer cells left after surgery. Surgery is done to remove the cancer and radiation is done to kill any cancer cells that may remain after surgery. Not only does radiation kill or slow the growth of cancer cells, but it can also affect nearby healthy cells.
This allows multiple beams of radiation to be directed anywhere in the body from any direction to deliver a high dose of radiation to the tumor while limiting damage to healthy tissue. Many people experience fatigue, sensitive skin at the site of radiation exposure, and emotional distress during radiation therapy. A newer type of radiation therapy, called proton therapy or proton beam therapy, uses particles called protons instead of x-rays to treat cancer.
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