What is Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a treatment used to kill cancerous cells in the body. The radiation commonly used is the high energy X-rays and gamma rays and also some charged particles are used. The treatment involves either a machine delivering this high energy rays to kill the abnormal cells or a radioactive material is kept near the tumor to kill the cancerous cells. Radioisotopes are also used in killing the cancer cells like radioactive iodine is administered which travels to the cancerous cell and kill them. The different types of radiations used in radiation therapy are: X- rays and radioisotopes. Isotopes are radioactive when they contain an unstable combination of protons and neutrons. This instability gives the atom a tendency to break apart, thus achieving a more stable configuration. The breakdown or the disintegration of the of radioactive isotope results in the release of the energy in the form of particle or electromagnetic radiation. These electromagnetic radiations are high energy and can kill the cancerous cells.

The cancer cells are the cells which has lost its ability of controlled growth and division. They are of two types, malignant and benign. The malignant cells have the capability of spreading throughout the body and are dangerous whereas the benign cancers are just an outgrowth which do not spread and can be easily removed.

Radiation therapy is one of the procedures of treating cancers. In this high energy radiations are given to the cancerous cells. The radiation damages the DNA of the cells either directly or by creating charged particles called the free radicals. The cells whose DNA gets destroyed to such an extent that it cannot be repaired die and are broken down by the body and finally eliminated from the body. The radiation therapy is given either using a machine or by placing a radioactive material next to the tumor and is called as brachytherapy. This method of the treatment is considered better as it minimizes the risk of exposure of the healthy tissues and their damage. Radiation therapy is also used in the treatment of non-malignant cancer but its use is minimized so as to prevent the risk of radiation induced cancer.

Side Effects:

Though radiation therapy effectively kills the cancerous or abnormal cells it has many side effects which also depends on the dose of the radiation given and the area of treatment. Radiation therapy results in tiredness, rashes on the skin, redness of the skin, loss of appetite etc. However, these side effects can be cured. The worst side effect of the radiation therapy is that it cannot differentiate between normal and cancerous cell and hence even kills the normal cells during the treatment.