Breakthroughs Are Making Radiation Safer

The benefits of radiation therapy during cancer treatment have long been known, but so have the potential risks. While this life-saving therapy can eradicate cancer cells rather effectively, it doesn’t discriminate between them and healthy cells. Inasmuch, patients may try to shy away from this vital treatment and doctors may not even always recommend it. Recent breakthroughs, however, are making it more and more possible to enjoy the benefits of radiation without such an increased chance for risk.

Some of the most recent changes in this protocol include:

• Better positioning – In breast cancer treatment, doctors have learned if patients are treated lying face down, with radiation pointed away from the heart and lungs, there is a dramatic reduction in the amount of healthy tissue irradiated during a normal round of treatment. In addition, this repositioning doesn’t impact treatment effectiveness.
• Giving cancer a little space – For those undergoing prostate cancer treatment, a spacer gel has proven itself very helpful in pushing healthy tissue away from the prostate as radiation is delivered. That means it’s possible to help prevent collateral damage without reducing treatment effectiveness.
• Better insights – Courtesy of Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) radiation oncologists can now be much more precise in the delivery of treatments. By being able to see exactly where a tumor is located while treatment is delivered, they can kill cancer cells while sparing as much healthy issue as possible.
• Faster treatment – Some cancer treatments are benefitting from stereotactic body radiation therapy. This new approach enables a more concentrated, higher-dose of therapy to delivered faster in cases of liver, lung and spine cancers. The end result is a streamlined treatment process that leaves more healthy issue intact.
• Better ability to reach tumors – Getting at tumors hidden far within the body is problematic at best. Proton-beam therapy, however, is making this possible more and more.

Radiation treatment is essentially in battling many forms of cancer, but its use may come with risks. Thanks to new breakthroughs, this course of treatment is safer now than ever before. Patients undergoing cancer treatment should consult with their doctors for the best treatment recommendations in their particular cases.

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