Radiation Treatments and Therapy
In low doses, radiation is used for things like x-rays, to take pictures of the inside of your body.
Radiation for cancer treatment uses higher doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy works by damaging the cancer cells over and over again. The cancer cells don’t have time to repair themselves in between daily treatments, so eventually they disappear. But normal cells are able to repair and replace themselves between these daily sessions of radiation therapy.
Even though cancer cells and normal cells react differently to radiation, it’s very hard to destroy cancer cells without damaging some normal cells too. The goal of radiation therapy is to give enough radiation to destroy cancer cells in your body – but only enough so that normal cells can recover.
External Beam Radiation Therapy
External radiation therapy is like getting an x-ray. It is painless and only takes a few minutes. The radiation is directly aimed at the tumor from a machine.
In a common scenario, the patient will lie flat on a treatment table, under the radiation machine. The radiation therapist may put special shields or blocks in place between the machine and other parts of the patient's body. These help to protect your organs and other body parts from the radiation.
There are also more specialized forms of external beam radiation therapy, normally referred to as stereotactic radiation therapy or radiosurgery.
Internal Radiation Therapy
Sometimes, the implants are put in the body with needle-like tubes. With internal radiation (brachytherapy, implant radiation), a high dose of radiation is given inside the body as close to a cancer as possible. This might be done in an operating room, and drugs may be used to make you relax or sleep. The implants are then put into the body through these tubes.
If you receive implants that won’t be removed, you may not be allowed to do some things, such as be around pregnant women, for a certain period amount of time. But you will be able to do your normal activities of daily living right away. If you have implants that will be removed, these may left in place for period ranging from hours tor days. While the implants are in place, you will stay in a private hospital room.