Did you know that more than half of all people with cancer receive radiation oncology as part of their cancer treatment? Also known as radiation therapy, radiation oncology is a type of cancer treatment that uses intense beams of energy – either X-rays, protons, or other energy sources – to kill cancer cells.
There are two types of radiation oncology – one in which high-energy beams are produced by a machine and aimed at a precise point on the body, and brachytherapy, a type of treatment in which radiation is placed inside the body. Radiation damages cancerous cells by destroying the genetic material that controls how those cells grow and divide. In the process, both cancerous and healthy cells are damaged, but the goal is to spare as many normal, healthy cells as possible. Often, normal cells can repair much of the damage caused by radiation therapy.
Your doctor may recommend radiation therapy for the following reasons:
- As the primary treatment for cancer
- To shrink a cancerous tumor before it is surgically removed
- To halt the growth of any remaining cancer cells following surgery
- In combination with other treatments designed to destroy cancer cells, such as chemotherapy
- To alleviate the symptoms caused by cancer in advanced cases
Common Side Effects of Radiation Oncology
Radiation oncology affects patients in different ways, depending on which part of the body is being treated and the amount of radiation that is used.
For example, radiation therapy on any part of the body can result in fatigue and/or hair loss (sometimes permanent) and skin irritation at the site of treatment. Radiation to treat head and neck tumors can result in dry mouth, thickened saliva, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, nausea, mouth sores, tooth decay, and/or changes in the way food tastes. Radiation therapy focused on cancerous cells in the chest can result in a cough, shortness of breath, and/or difficulty swallowing, while abdominal cancer treatment may produce nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Radiation therapy in the pelvic region may cause diarrhea, bladder irritation, frequent urination, and/or sexual dysfunction.
However, most side effects are only temporary or can be controlled, generally disappearing in time once treatment has been completed. While some patients experience some side effects from radiation oncology, some experience no significant effects at all.
Radiation Oncology in Wooster, Ohio
At the Outpatient Pavilion of Wooster Community Hospital, noninvasive radiation therapy is used as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, and other cancer treatments. We offer two main types of treatment:
- External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) is applied outside the body using a state-of-the-art machine called a linear accelerator that enables:
- Three-dimensional (3D) conformal radiation therapy
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)
- Prone Radiation Treatment, which is specially designed to preserve healthy tissue. For example, with prone radiation treatment, breast cancer patients lie on their stomach (or the prone position), so gravity pulls the breast tissue down and away from the chest wall. This directs radiation in front of the ribs, where it is needed most, and away from the heart and lungs. Currently, Wooster Community Hospital is the only location in Wayne County that offers prone radiation positioning for breast cancer treatment.
To learn more about radiation oncology and how it can benefit you or a loved one, contact Wooster Cancer Care at (330) 262-2800 or visit woosterhospital.org.