There are many benefits of Radiation Therapy:
It can destroy cancer cells of almost all parts of the body. It not only treats cancer but also successfully eliminates the tumor in some cases to prevent recurrence.
It shrinks the tumor before surgery and treats remaining cancer cells (if any) after surgery.
Palliative radiation therapy (when the complete elimination of the tumor is not possible) increases life span, reduces pain and lessens other cancer symptoms considerably.
It improves the overall results of treatments such as chemotherapy or other hormonal therapies if given simultaneously.
According to most patients, the effect of this therapy is minimal on daily schedules.The patient needs not stay in the hospital during the course of the radiation therapy in most cases and the sessions are carried out on an outpatient basis. The cost of the Radiation therapy varies from one oncology centre to another. If advanced equipment are used, the cost is likely to go up. The cost also depends on the number of scans required for the patient. Most health insurance plans cover it; however sometimes the patients need to pay for a few processes of the treatment.
It is always better to have a clear discussion with the hospital office regarding their policy and how the health plan can be implemented before starting the treatment. Unfortunately, the cost of Radiation is drastically going up currently making it difficult for patients belonging to a lower income group.
How are different types of Radiation Therapy given?
In the external radiotherapy the doctor first specifies the area that is to be treated. This comes under a process called simulation in which the radiation therapist uses a CT scan or an MRI machine to define the treatment field (or port). Radiation beams are aimed very specifically on the marked region. When the radiation is given, a leg mold or mask is used to keep the patient static in one position. The mark should not be removed as it is required until the treatment is over.
In case of internal radiation therapy, an implant is placed inside the tumor of the patient’s body. It is positioned in a way that it affects the normal cells as less as possible. In this type of surgery a higher dose of radiation is given to a smaller area, which is always not possible in external radiation therapy. In brachytherapy (the biological name for internal radiation therapy) two methods of radiation therapy are used:
Intracavitary radiation: The implant is placed in a specific cavity of the body like rectum or uterus.
Interstitial radiation: The implant is placed in the tumor itself or very close to the tumor. This type shows early results and is more commonly used.
Different kinds of implants are used in internal radiation therapy that include seeds, balloons, tubes, pellets, wires, needles, or capsules.
Do I need to get admitted for Radiation Therapy?
The patient undergoing external radiation therapy needs not stay in the hospital. It is generally given during outpatient visits. It also does not take much time; 15-30 minutes is enough for a session of external radiation therapy.
For internal radiation therapy the patient often stands a chance of emitting radioactivity which is detrimental to other people. So, he/she needs to stay in the hospital for a few days during the treatment till all the radioactive sources have completely disappeared.
How much time is required for Radiation Therapy?
It takes very little time. It requires 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Only in a few special cases it takes more than 30 minutes. A full course of treatment requires several weeks in some cases and in some other cases the treatment gets over just within a few days.