Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells. It most often uses X-rays, but protons or other types of energy also can be used. While both healthy and cancerous cells are damaged by radiation therapy, the goal of radiation therapy is to destroy as few normal, healthy cells as possible. Normal cells can often repair much of the damage caused by radiation.

Types of Radiation Therapy: 

  1. External radiation: Uses high energy rays that are delivered to the tumor by a machine.
  2. Internal radiation or (brachytherapy): Uses a radioactive “seed” or” pellet” which is placed inside the body, in or near the tumour, the radioactive source releases energized particles that target and kill the tumor cells.
  3. Systemic radiation: Involves introducing radioactive chemicals into the body, usually through the mouth or blood vessels (IV Injection).

Advantages of Radiation Therapy:

  • Death of a large proportion of cancer cells within the entire tumor (radiation alone may be used to cure certain small tumours).
  • Death of microscopic disease (e.g. at the time of surgery).
  • Ability to shrink tumours (which may help to convert certain patients from unresectable to resectable status)
  • Relative safety for the patient (it is painless, and generally does not require anesthesia).
  • Synergy with systemic therapy (the ability to kill more cells together than either therapy could do alone).

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy:

  • Skin problems, such as: Dryness, itching.
  • Hair loss.
  • Tiredness.
  • Feeling sick.
  • Sex and fertility issues for example: Infertility.
  • Lymphedema.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Change in menstrual cycle in women.
  • Appetite change.
  • Tissue hardening (fibrosis). 

Prepared By:

Taifa Kabir Ahmad.

Yousif Mahmood Ahmad.

Zina Nash’at Faruq.

(KPSA’s Local Pharmacy Education Committee Members)