Higher Dose Radiation Raises Cure Rate
In the 2006 study conducted on nearly 5,000 radiation patients treated in nine academic U.S. radiation oncology departments standard doses for external beam radiation of the prostate were at or below 60 Gy.
Yet since then, radiation doses are often at or well above 70 Gy, due to the high-dose delivery systems in newer 3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy , and Imaged Guided Radiation Therapy . Studies have shown that a higher dose of radiation significantly improves chances of the cancer not returning.
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How Will I Know If The Treatment Has Worked
Because cancer cells continue to die for weeks or months after treatment ends, your radiation oncologist most likely wont be able to tell you straightaway how the cancer is responding. After treatment finishes, you will have regular check-ups. Your radiation oncologist will do a physical examination and arrange tests or scans to check how the cancer has responded to treatment. You may not know the full benefit of having radiation therapy for some months.
If radiation therapy is given as palliative treatment, the relief of symptoms is a good sign that the treatment has worked. This may take a few days or weeks. Until then, you may need other treatments for your symptoms, for example pain medicine.
Are Side Effects The Same For Everyone
The side effects of radiation treatment vary from patient to patient. You may have no side effects or only a few mild ones through your course of treatment. Some people do experience serious side effects, however. The side effects that you are likely to have depend primarily on the radiation dose and the part of your body that is treated. Your general health also can affect how your body reacts to radiation therapy and whether you have side effects. Before beginning your treatment, your doctor and nurse will discuss the side effects you might experience, how long they might last, and how serious they might be.
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What Foods Can I Eat During Radiation Therapy
Fortunately, there is plenty left on the menu even when taking all of those foods out of the equation. Nutrition is an integral part of cancer treatment as well as recovery, and good nutrition comes with a plethora of benefits:
- Feel Better An overall feeling of wellness due to providing your body with the nourishment it needs
- Maintain Strength and Energy Calories from wholesome nutrition will help keep your body running at its optimal level
- Maintain Weight and Nutrients Oftentimes, treatment will cause loss of appetite resulting in weight loss. A balanced diet can help mitigate those effects
- Lower Risk of Infection While your immune system will be weakened by radiation treatments, nutrients and vitamins found in whole foods can help get it back to a higher level
Day Of Your Simulation
What to expect
A member of your radiation therapy team will check you in. Youll be asked to state and spell your full name and birth date many times. This is for your safety and part of our standard identification process. Patients with the same or similar names may be having care on the same day as you.
Youll be greeted by your radiation therapist. Theyll take a photograph of your face. This picture will be used to identify you throughout your treatment.
Your therapist will then explain the simulation to you. If you havent already signed a consent form, your radiation oncologist will review everything with you, and ask for your signature.
During your simulation
For your simulation, you may need to get undressed and change into a gown. You should keep your shoes on. If you wear a head covering, such as a wig, turban, or cap, you may have to remove it. Your therapists will help you lie down on a table and make every effort to ensure your comfort and privacy.
Although the table will have a sheet on it, its hard and has no cushion. If you havent taken pain medication and think you may need it, tell your therapists before your simulation begins. Also, the room is usually cool. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, let your therapists know.
To help pass the time, your therapists can play music for you. You may bring a CD of your own from home, if you wish.
Figure 1. Mask for your radiation
Figure 2. Chin strap for your radiation
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How Does Radiation Therapy Work / What Is Radiotherapy
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, is the use of various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. Radiation oncologists may use radiation to cure cancer, to control the growth of the cancer or to relieve symptoms, such as pain. Radiation therapy works by damaging cells. Normal cells are able to repair themselves, whereas cancer cells cannot. New techniques also allow doctors to better target the radiation to protect healthy cells.
Sometimes radiation therapy is the only treatment a patient needs. At other times, it is only one part of a patients treatment. For example, prostate and larynx cancer are often treated with radiotherapy alone, while a woman with breast cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Radiation may also be used to make your primary treatment more effective. For example, you can be treated with radiation therapy before surgery to help shrink the cancer and allow less extensive surgery than would otherwise be needed or you may be treated with radiation after surgery to destroy small amounts of cancer that may have been left behind. A radiation oncologist may choose to use radiation therapy in a number of different ways. Sometimes the goal is to cure the cancer. In this case, radiation therapy may be used to:
- Shrink tumors that are interfering with your quality of life, such as a lung tumor that is causing shortness of breath.
- Relieve pain by reducing the size of your tumor.
How Many Treatments Will I Have
If you are having radiation therapy with the aim of making the cancer go away, you may have treatment for 57 weeks. Usually treatment is once a day, Monday to Friday, but sometimes its given twice a day.
Your doctor will tell you how many treatments you will have. If you live a long way from the treatment centre and youre having a short course, your treatment may be given two or three times per week.
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What Is External Beam Radiation Therapy
During external beam radiation therapy, a beam of radiation is directed through the skin to the cancer and the immediate surrounding area in order to destroy the main tumor and any nearby cancer cells. To minimize side effects, the treatments are typically given five days a week, Monday through Friday, for a number of weeks. This allows doctors to get enough radiation into the body to kill the cancer while giving healthy cells time each day to recover.
The radiation beam is usually generated by a machine called a linear accelerator. The linear accelerator, or linac, is capable of producing high-energy X-rays and electrons for the treatment of your cancer. Using high-tech treatment planning software, your treatment team controls the size and shape of the beam, as well as how it is directed at your body, to effectively treat your tumor while sparing the surrounding normal tissue. Several special types of external beam therapy are discussed in the next sections. These are used for specific types of cancer, and your radiation oncologist will recommend one of these treatments if he or she believes it will help you.
Three-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy
Early And Late Effects Of Radiation Therapy
- Early side effects happen during or shortly after treatment. These side effects tend to be short-term, mild, and treatable. Theyre usually gone within a few weeks after treatment ends. The most common early side effects are fatigue and skin changes. Other early side effects usually are related to the area being treated, such as hair loss and mouth problems when radiation treatment is given to this area.
- Late side effects can take months or even years to develop. They can occur in any normal tissue in the body that has received radiation. The risk of late side effects depends on the area treated as well as the radiation dose that was used. Careful treatment planning can help avoid serious long-term side effects. Its always best to talk to your radiation oncologist about the risk of long-term side effects.
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About Radiation Therapy To The Brain
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to treat cancer. It works by damaging the cancer cells and making it hard for them to reproduce. Your body then is naturally able to get rid of these damaged cancer cells. Radiation therapy also affects normal cells. However, your normal cells are able to repair themselves in a way that cancer cells cant.
Radiation can be given to treat primary tumors in your brain or tumors that have spread to your brain from another part of your body . Your doctor will decide whether youll receive partial or whole brain radiation. Youll have either external beam radiation therapy or stereotactic radiosurgery depending on your treatment plan.
During external beam radiation, a treatment machine will aim beams of radiation directly to the tumor. The beam passes through your body and destroys cancer cells in its path. You wont see or feel the radiation.
Stereotactic radiosurgery can be used in some tumors and is even more precise. It targets a small area in your brain with high doses of radiation and delivers lower doses of radiation to the normal tissue around it. Youre able to receive higher doses to the tumor at each treatment session, which shortens the overall course of treatment.
Radiation therapy takes time to work. It takes days or weeks of treatment before cancer cells start to die, and they keep dying for weeks or months after radiation therapy.
How Long Will Radiotherapy Be Given For
Radiotherapy is usually given daily over one to three weeks. It will be given Monday to Friday with a break at weekends. Most hospitals do not give radiotherapy on bank holidays.
You may have radiotherapy for longer if you need an extra boost.
Depending on local guidelines and your personal situation, your radiotherapy may be given in a slightly different way. For example, you may have a smaller daily dose over a longer period of time.
Your specialist will explain how long you will have radiotherapy for and why.
Your appointments may be arranged for a similar time each day so you can settle into a routine but this isnt always possible.
If you have a holiday booked, tell your specialist or therapeutic radiographer so that together you can decide what arrangements to make.
It is important to attend all your radiotherapy appointments and avoid any gaps in the treatment as much as possible.
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How Radiotherapy Is Given
Radiotherapy can be given in several ways and using different doses.
The total dose of radiotherapy is split into a course of smaller treatments. These are called fractions.
Its carried out by people trained to give radiotherapy, known as therapeutic radiographers.
Radiotherapy is not available in every hospital, but each breast unit is linked to a hospital that has a radiotherapy department so you may have to travel for treatment.
Youll normally be given your treatment at hospital as an outpatient.
During Watchful Waiting Or Active Surveillance
If you choose observation or active surveillance, your PSA level will be monitored closely to help decide if the cancer is growing and if treatment should be considered.
Your doctor will watch your PSA level and how quickly it is rising. Not all doctors agree on exactly what PSA level might require further action . Again, talk to your doctor so you understand what change in your PSA might be considered cause for concern.
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How Is Radiation Therapy Delivered
Icon uses the most cutting-edge radiation therapy techniques and technology to deliver pin-point accurate radiation to the tumour. Our technology and expertise allows us to accurately treat all cancer types of various size, type and location.
Radiation therapy treatment can be delivered on its own, or in combination with other forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy, hormones and surgery. It is commonly undertaken as an outpatient service.
Treatment is usually given in daily intervals over several weeks, allowing enough radiation to target cancer cells while providing healthy cells enough time to recuperate. A single course of radiation therapy is unique to each person and their condition. This includes the site and stage of the disease, type of disease, a persons age and general health. Radiation does not make you radioactive, and it is safe for patients undergoing treatment to be around other people, including children.
How Fertility Might Be Affected
For women: Talk to your cancer care team about how radiation might affect your fertility . Its best to do this before starting treatment so you are aware of possible risks to your fertility.
Depending on the radiation dose, women getting radiation therapy in the pelvic area sometimes stop having menstrual periods and have other symptoms of menopause. Report these symptoms to your cancer care and ask them how to relieve these side effects.Sometimes menstrual periods will return when radiation therapy is over, but sometimes they do not.
See Fertility and Women With Cancer to learn more.
For men: Radiation therapy to an area that includes the testicles can reduce both the number of sperm and their ability to function. If you want to father a child in the future and are concerned about reduced fertility, talk to your cancer care team before starting treatment. One option may be to bank your sperm ahead of time.
See Fertility and Men With Cancer to learn more.
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The Side Effects Of Chemo
Most chemotherapy patients understandably want to maintain their independence throughout the treatment process. But its important to discuss the potential side effects that may make it unsafe to drive.
Chemotherapy can affect your:
The side effects that you experience will depend on the chemotherapy used in your treatment. The chemotherapy drug Altima, which can be used to treat mesothelioma, can cause severe diarrhea and tiredness. Survivingmesothelioma.com offers some great resources for mesothelioma treatment. Other chemotherapy drugs, like those used to treat oral cancer, may just cause hair loss and changes to the skin.
Unfortunately, chemo has many unpleasant side effects, like vomiting, nausea and fatigue. Some people feel these effects immediately, while others dont feel them for a few hours or a full day.
All of these side effects may not only affect your ability to drive, but your desire, too. You may find it difficult to concentrate or stay alert after treatment. Many people find that the treatments wipe them out completely. Extreme fatigue will prevent you from being able to drive safely.
Other people have extreme nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea right away. These side effects can make it difficult or impossible to concentrate on the road. In this case, you may want to have a close friend or family member drive you home and take precautions to make sure youre prepared for the ride home.
Does Radiation Shorten Your Life
Rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, are more affected by radiation therapy than normal cells. The body may respond to this damage with fibrosis or scarring, though this is generally a mild process and typically does not cause any long-term problems that substantially affect quality of life.
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Having External Radiotherapy Treatment
You can’t feel radiotherapy when you actually have the treatment.
Because your position is so important, the radiographers may take a little while to get you ready. You can help by trying to relax as much as possible during this time.
Often before the radiotherapy starts, the radiographers will take some x-ray images to make sure you are in the right position.
Once you are in the right position your radiographers leave you alone in the room. This is so they are not exposed to the radiation. You will be alone for a few minutes or up to 15 minutes, depending on the type of treatment you are having. Some treatments, such as total body radiotherapy can take up to an hour.
Your radiographers watch you carefully either through a window or on a closed circuit television screen. They may ask you to hold your breath or take shallow breaths during the treatment.
The short video below shows how you have radiotherapy:
Faq: Radiation Therapy For Prostate Cancer
Why would I choose radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy, including external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy, is an alternative form of treatment for prostate cancer. EBRT may be used after other treatments, such as surgery, to manage cancer that has recurred or is at high risk of recurrence. Radiation therapy has an excellent record of success, providing long-term disease control and survival rates equivalent to other treatments, including surgery.
How should I expect to feel during radiation therapy?
Undergoing external beam radiation therapy is similar to having a routine X-ray. Radiation cannot be seen, smelled or felt. Generally, side effects don’t appear until the second or third week of treatment. Because radiation therapy is a local treatment, only the areas of the body where it is directed will experience side effects. Most patients will experience some or all of the following:
- Increase in the frequency of urination
- Urinary urgency
- Softer and smaller volume bowel movements
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Worsening of hemorrhoids or rectal irritation with occasional scant blood and fatigue
Many questions may arise during radiation therapy treatment. Your doctors will be available to answer questions throughout your treatment.
How should I expect to feel after radiation therapy?
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