Radiation therapy is one of the several treatment methods available for cancer. It is used to treat many different types of cancer. At least half of the patients with cancer receive radiation therapy during their cancer treatment. Radiation therapy can be used as the main treatment for your cancer or it can be used in conjunction with other treatments.
There are several reasons why you may need to have a radiation therapy. These reasons may depend on the type of cancer you have, the stage of cancer, and your health condition, among others. However, the main aim of this type of therapy is to kill the cancer cells and get rid of the tumor.
Although there is a likelihood that other healthy cells may be affected by the radiation, most of the time, this situation is usually temporary and your healthy cells will regenerate and go back to normal after the treatment ends.
Below are some of the reasons why it may be necessary for you to have a radiation therapy:
1. When other cancer treatments are not working for you
There are several types of cancer treatment methods such as chemotherapy, surgery, and immunotherapy, among others. Sometimes, the cancer treatments that you may be getting may not be working for you.
During the treatment of cancer, the doctor may be aiming to reduce the size of your tumor, to completely destroy the tumor, or at least minimize the symptoms caused by the tumor.
It is also possible that the kind of treatment being used on you may prove futile in destroying the tumor. Some tumors can be very aggressive. They may shrink and disappear as you receive treatment and then reappear again after the treatment is over.
When other treatments do not work for you, then your doctors or cancer care team may decide to try out radiation therapy, if you haven't had one.
2. When it is necessary to combine radiation therapy with other cancer treatments
Radiation therapy can be used together with other treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy to treat cancer. You may, therefore, need it to help improve your chances of getting rid of your cancer.
When used together with surgery, radiation therapy is used to shrink the size of the tumor before a surgery is done. Sometimes, the tumor may have spread and become very large or risky to operate on.
To avoid these risks, doctors may decide to begin the treatment process by using radiation therapy to destroy most of the tumor and thus, make it easier to remove during surgery.
Radiation therapy or radiotherapy can also be used together with chemotherapy to help kill the cancer cells. It is usually done where chemotherapy does not work effectively on its own or the tumor is destroyed faster when the two treatments are combined.
3. When its side effects are not as severe as other cancer treatments
Treatments such as chemotherapy usually have extreme side effects. Chemotherapy can cause hair loss, diarrhea, and nausea, among other symptoms. Radiotherapy has its side effects, too. However, its advantage is that not all people get affected by its side effects.
When radiation is also focused precisely on the tumor, it greatly reduces the patient's chances of developing side effects. For this reason, radiotherapy makes a considerable option for a patient, who is heavily affected by other forms of cancer treatments.
4. It is the best type of treatment for the type of cancer you have
There are cancer patients who may not only be affected by cancer but also other chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and diabetes, among others.
These patients may not be able to get other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery. Radiation therapy may then be left as the most suitable option for them. They are, therefore, going to need it to get better.
However, it still depends on which type of cancer the patient may have and where it is located. Thus, it is very important to make sure that your doctor is aware of your medical history and your medical condition. Knowing your medical history will help your cancer care team to decide which type of treatment may be the best for you.
5. To destroy any remaining cancer cells
Radiotherapy can also be used in getting rid of any cancer cells that may be left behind after you have had surgery. Although surgery may help to get rid of most of the tumor, sometimes, a small part of the tumor or a few cancer cells may be left behind.
Any remaining cancer cells can be very dangerous for a patient because it may cause the cancer to resurface once more. To avoid the recurrence of cancer, doctors use radiation therapy to destroy the cancer cells that may be left once the surgery has been done.
Questions to Help You Understand Why You May Need to Have a Radiation Therapy
Sometimes, you may wonder why you are receiving a radiation therapy. Here is a list of some of the questions that you can ask your doctor to fully understand the reason for your treatment:
- How will the treatment help me?
- What are the risks of the treatment?
- Are there any other available options?
- What are the goals of this treatment?
The Bottom Line
Radiation therapy is one of the best treatments available for cancer. It works well for most patients and it is also possible to control its side effects. If your doctor recommends that you should have this type of treatment, make sure that you are well-informed about it.
Find out the risks of the treatment, ensure you are aware of the reason why it is being done, and how it will help you in your condition.
If you develop any side effects from the treatment, then inform your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctors will be able to advise you on what you can do to deal with the side effects. An example would be a change in your diet to reduce the risk of having diarrhea. You may also be given drugs to help you cope with the side effects.