The health professionals at TROG Cancer Research share a common goal.  All cancers. One treatment.

Research shows one in two people with cancer will benefit from radiation therapy. Our researchers and clinicians are focused on improving the way radiation medicine is delivered to cancer patients through ongoing scientific investigation, clinical trials, and with the use of cutting-edge technology.

Radiation therapy is a common treatment delivered to people diagnosed with a range of cancers. Here, we answer some of the frequently asked questions about the treatment and its impacts on patients treated using the technology.

Radiation therapy is used to treat cancerous tumours. These include cancers of the brain, breast, cervix, larynx, lung, pancreas, prostate, skin, spine, stomach, throat/neck, uterus, and soft-tissue sarcomas. It can also be used to treat leukemia (cancer of the blood-forming cells) and lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system).

 

At TROG Cancer Research, our focus is primarily on radiation therapy used to treat cancer of the head and neck, breast, bladder, lungs, and prostate.

 

Radiation therapy may be given as the main treatment with the aim of causing the cancer to disappear. This is called curative or definitive radiation therapy. It is often used before (neoadjuvant) or after (adjuvant) other treatments to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

 

Radiation therapy can also be used as a palliative treatment help to relieve pain and other symptoms by making the cancer smaller or stopping it from spreading. When used in this way, it is generally to improve the quality of life for patients with a terminal diagnosis.

The number of treatments varies depending on the type of cancer you have, your general health, and the radiation technique used. Treatments are typically given five days a week for several weeks. When radiation is used for palliative care, the course of treatment is generally between two to three weeks. Each treatment session typically takes 30-60 minutes.

Radiation therapy can be delivered externally or internally, or a combination of both. 

 

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is like having an x-ray. Radiation is beamed from a linear accelerator aimed at the precise location of the cancer. The machine moves around your body as you lie on a treatment table.

 

Internal radiation therapy is where a radiation source is placed inside the body, either inside the cancerous cells or close to them. Most commonly it is in the form of brachytherapy, where gamma rays deliver a high dose of radiation to the cancer.

Radiation is sometimes the only type of treatment a patient needs, but some types of cancer respond best to a combination of approaches. This could be a combination of radiation therapy plus surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and/or immunotherapy.

Some people experience a tingling or slight warming sensation in the area being treated, but you won’t feel any pain or discomfort during your treatment sessions. Radiation has no smell, taste, or sound.

As radiation therapy is unique to everyone, the impact of the treatment will vary from patient to patient. Some of the short-term side effects include fatigue, appetite loss, nausea, and problems with the mouth and throat. Depending on where the cancer is located, longer term side effects may include bowel or bladder problems, infertility, and fibrosis (tissue hardening).

 

Our clinical trials aim to find the best possible solution for cancer patients, so side effects are reduced and quality of life improved.

Radiation therapy only affects the area of the body where the tumour is located. You will not lose your hair unless your treatment targets a part of the body that grows hair, such as your scalp. If you do lose your hair, it would most likely grow back after your treatment is over.

A few weeks after your treatment you will meet with your Radiation Oncologist and imaging scans will be taken to assess how the tumour has responded. Regular check-ups will become less frequent over time. It is generally accepted that a cancer is in remission if you have no signs of the disease for three years after treatment is completed.

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