Radiation therapy, also known as radiation therapy, is a locoregional treatment of cancers. It involves using radiation to destroy cancer cells by blocking their ability to multiply.
Irradiation aims to destroy cancer cells while preserving healthy tissues and surrounding organs as best as possible.
More than half of cancer patients are treated with radiation therapy at some stage of their care.
A distinction is made between external radiotherapy and brachytherapy:
• In external radiotherapy, the rays are emitted in a beam from a machine located near the patient; they pass through the skin to reach the tumor.
• In brachytherapy, radioactive sources are implanted directly into the body of the sick person.
There is a third type of radiotherapy, metabolic radiotherapy. It consists of administering, by oral route (drink or capsule) or by intravenous injection, a radioactive substance that binds preferentially to cancer cells to destroy them.
Metabolic radiotherapy is used to treat certain thyroid cancers, Vaquez disease and certain bone metastases.
Radiotherapy is used alone or in combination with other methods. The choice depends on the location and stage of the tumour and the general condition of the patient.
The doctor will first identify the tumour in order to better target it and adapt the irradiation fields to its shape. Thanks to advances in medical imaging, targeting is becoming more and more precise.
Radiation therapy can precede surgery to reduce the tumour beforehand and make it more easily operable or follow it to complete the procedure by destroying cells that would have escaped surgery. Radiation therapy can also be combined with chemotherapy.
Duration of hospital stay
The patient will be able to leave the hospital after the examination.
Average length of stay
1 to 7 weeks.
The treatment is administered over a period of several weeks.
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Before starting radiotherapy, the oncologist explains the principle, objectives and technique he/she will use. He/she also informs you about possible side effects and the solutions that exist to anticipate or limit them.
The oncologist identifies the target on which the rays will be directed and the organs at risk to be protected (kidneys, liver and intestines). To do this, a CT scan centered on the area to be treated is performed to obtain a three-dimensional image of the lymph nodes and neighbouring organs.
During this marking, your position is carefully defined. You will have to repeat it at each session. To do this, a marking on the skin (in the form of a tattoo, most often erasable) or restraints specially adapted to your morphology (wedges, foam shells, thermoformed mattresses, etc.) are made.
The dosimetry step consists in determining, by means of a computerized study, the distribution of the radiation dose to be applied to the area to be treated. Together with the oncologist, the physicist and dosimetrist optimize the irradiation in order to best treat the lymph nodes while sparing neighbouring healthy tissues. This step does not require your presence.
The final treatment plan establishes in particular the dose and its delivery methods (dose per session, number and frequency of sessions, etc.)
During the session, you are alone in the room but you remain in constant contact with the manipulators. You can communicate with them through an intercom and you are monitored by a video camera. If necessary, processing can be stopped immediately.
Your positioning on the device is regularly checked, as well as the actual radiation dose delivered. Control images are taken during processing to verify that it is in conformity with what was planned.
The irradiation time is short, about a few minutes.
The presence time in the treatment room is usually about **30 minutes. ** The device revolves around you without ever touching you. The irradiation is invisible and painless. You do not feel any particular sensation.
If radiation therapy is used to treat throat or brain cancer, a plastic mask is placed on the face during treatment to keep the patient still, which can cause discomfort.
As the sessions progress, pain may appear. The rays pass through non-ill tissues to reach the tumor. They then cause inflammation, which results in sensations of heating or burning in the irradiated area, especially on the surface of the skin or mucous membranes.
If the rays pass through the digestive tract, they can cause vomiting, diarrhea or cramps in the stomach and intestine. Some preventive advice limits the onset of these pains.
During the sessions, it is necessary to:
• Choose dishes that are easy to swallow
• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, at least 1.5L per day
• Take treatments for nausea
• Avoid eating just before and just after the session.
• Skin disorders of the treated area
• Hair loss
• Psychological disorders
• Decreased bone growth (In children)
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