5 important things about radiotherapy
Radiotherapy Specialist Cristian Turdeanu provides some essential information on how radiotherapy works and about the effects of radiation on the body.
According to the latest statistics published by the Global Cancer Observatory, the number of cancer patients in Romania was rising in 2018: compared to previous reporting, the number of cancer patients reached 83,000 in 2012, 6 percentage points higher than in 2012. And the number of deaths increased by 5 percent, reaching nearly 51,000 in 2018.
Along with surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted treatments, radiotherapy remains a major component of cancer therapy. In Romania, only 30 patients out of 100 diagnosed with cancer have access to therapy, either due to lack of funds or due to insufficient equipment. Radiotherapy can be done before or after surgical removal of a tumor and may be accompanied by chemotherapy. There are also situations when radiotherapy is the only treatment option. Radiotherapy Specialist Cristian Turdeanu (photo) from Onco Card Hospital Brasov provides some essential information about how radiotherapy works and about the effects of tumor irradiation on the body.
1. Radiation reaches both malignant tissues and healthy ones.
“Radiotherapy is a treatment with ionizing radiation that affects cells, both healthy and diseased. The idea of radiotherapy arose when it was found that malignant cells suffered more severe changes from radiotherapy compared to healthy ones. The radiation doses prescribed for treatments are the ones we know to provide maximum chances of destroying malignant cells under conditions of acceptable toxicity in healthy tissues, “says doctor Cristian Turdeanu.
2. Radiotherapy has side effects, which can be acute, immediate, but also long-term.
“Generally, local irritation, local inflammation occurs, which sometimes is very difficult to tolerate. In the case of ENT spheres, as the radiation affects the anatomical structures that come in direct contact with the food bowl, the patient will face terrible ingestion of food intake.
The situation differs from patient to patient: the intensity of these effects differs depending on the patient’s own radiosensitivity and, of course, depends also on the dose we are administering. Another example:
When we irradiate the pelvis, the bladder enters the bladder and an acute side effect may be what we call radial cystitis. As manifestations, it resembles a cystitis, but it is not infectious.
What we have presented above is acute toxicity; to exemplify the late ones I will return to the situation of irradiation on the ENT sphere. In this case, there is a risk of irradiation of the muscles controlling mastication, with possible subsequent fibrosis, which is expressed by limiting mouth opening (trismus).
It is just an example of late toxicity but highlights their inconveniences. Especially if we think they are irreversible, “says Onco Card, the impact of adverse effects of radiation therapy.
3. Modern radiotherapy equipment allows the mitigation of adverse effects.
“Before we begin radiotherapy. We do a CT simulation, we do a CT in the affected anatomical region, and then on these images we will point to the physicist where the tumor is and the neighboring, healthy organs of the tumor (the” at-risk organs “). With this information, with the help of modern radiotherapy equipment, a radiotherapy plan can be developed to deliver the curative dose to the tumor formation and the lowest possible doses on neighboring tissues. In conclusion, we need a reasonable amount of time to develops the treatment plan in optimal conditions. It is very important to pay close attention to this stage. This reduces the side effects and only so we can benefit from the advanced radiation therapy techniques. Acute side effects are hard to tolerate for the moment, but they pass, they heal, “says Dr.
4. Radiotherapy should not interrupted in order to reduce the chances of success in treating cancer.
“A break of 1-2 days, over the weekend, for example, is not a significant issue. If the patient does some of the treatment, then it does not come from a variety of reasons, interrupts and returns in three months to continue, it’s not at all right. Discontinuation of treatment decreases or totally compromises the chances of successful treatment. In addition, we can not resume treatment from scratch. The irradiated healthy skin undergoes irreversible changes of variable intensity at the administered dose. Thus, if we restart from the curative dose that I interrupted, it would overlap the initial and cumulative dose. It would be a too high dose for healthy cells. It can be said that we have only one attempt. If we do not use it correctly, the chances of success are significantly reduced, “warns the Onco Card specialist.
5. Natural treatments should avoided at all costs.
“I am making an important point: besides smoking, some natural remedies decrease the effectiveness of our treatment. There would be two big problems with natural treatments. The first is that patients call for them and do not contact the doctor anymore. Natural treatment has no effect, and the disease progresses to a stage where nothing or nothing can be done. There are treatments that get really bad, some of them are hepatotoxic. And there are treatments that do not do either good or bad, “concludes doctor Cristian Turdeanu.