In 2016-17, more than 60,000 Australians went for radiation therapy. This indicates the popularity of this treatment, but as a patient, you should be asking a few more questions.
This helpful article will help you understand radiotherapy broadly. After reading it, you should be able to decide whether this treatment is for you. Let’s start with the basics.
What is radiotherapy?
This is a form of treatment of skin cancer where a beam of energy is directed on a cancer-afflicted area. This beam of energy can be either X-rays, gamma rays or other particles.
What is the purpose of radiation therapy?
Radiotherapy accomplishes three objectives;
- It kills cancer cells.
- By killing cancerous cells, this treatment stops the spread of this disease to the other parts of the body.
- Radiotherapy is also used to reduce the pain or discomfort of the patient. Doctors use this therapy to improve the quality of life of the patient.
Our cells have an innate quality to grow and multiply. Unless our body cells grow, our body as a whole won’t grow at all.
But sometimes, some cells grow uncontrollably because their genes have gone haywire. This abnormal growth is called cancer, and if not checked, it can spread to other parts of the body like liver, stomach, bones or lungs. Therefore, an essential role of radiotherapy is to stop the spread of this disease.
Is radiotherapy safe?
Over the years, doctors and medical technologists have near-perfected radiotherapy. Today, a battery of experts conducts radiotherapy sessions, which includes oncologists, medical technologists, radiation specialists, and trained nurses. All tests are conducted in tightly controlled environments, and the risk of getting complications is very less.
Does radiotherapy cure cancer?
There is no definitive solution to this question. If detected early, nearly all forms of cancer can be cured by this therapy. According to this study, 83% of all cancer patients were cured of their disease within one year of receiving this therapy. It is vital to understand that cancer survival also depends upon other factors like immunity, other diseases, etc.
What is the cost of radiation therapy?
This cost of radiation therapy varies from one treatment provider to another. For example, a public-private health care provider will charge you a nominal or no cost for your cancer treatment. You might have to pay some out of the pocket costs, though such as parking, accommodation, etc.
In a 100% private healthcare facility, you will have to pay the gap cost. This cost refers to the extra expenses over your Medicare cover. While you are free to choose your healthcare provider, please take due advice from multiple sources.
What about side-effects?
There will be some side effects during or after your radiation therapy. These effects are related to the area receiving this treatment.
Many patients report hair fall in the initial days of their treatment. After a couple of months, there is fresh hair on the scalp. If someone is receiving radiation on the scalp, he might lose his hair forever. Another common symptom is the dryness of the mouth. Patients also report dense saliva in their mouths. When this happens, please consult a dentist as this may lead to dental cavities.
If someone has skin cancer, he would have his unique side effects. The most common symptom here is red and scaly spots on the skin. Cancer patients receiving chest radiation often report a ‘lumpy feeling’ in their chest area. This has got to do with the swelling of the esophagus.
To conclude, radiation therapy is used for treating various kinds of skin cancers. It is safe & effective, as well.