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Radiotherapy: Five things to know about radiation therapy

With one in two people likely to develop some form of cancer in their lifetimes, it’s likely you’ve heard of treatments such as radiotherapy. But what is radiotherapy and how does it work? Keisha Robinson, CCL’s Head of Radiotherapy and Quality explains.

‘High-energy particles to destroy cancer cells’

Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, gamma rays or protons to destroy or damage cancer cells.

Sometimes radiation therapy is the only treatment a patient needs. At other times, it is only one part of a patient’s treatment pathway. For example, prostate cancer is often treated with radiotherapy alone, while breast cancer patients may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

How radiotherapy works

Radiotherapy can be given in three ways: external, internal or systemic radiation. External radiation uses a machine that directs high-energy X-rays from outside the body into the tumour. Internal radiation (brachytherapy) involves putting a radioactive source inside the body or near the tumour, and systemic radiation refers to radioactive drugs given by mouth or put into a vein. These drugs then travel throughout the body.

The type of radiotherapy you get will depend on the type of cancer and where it is. Computerised personalised treatment plans and specialised quality assurance safety checks are undertaken before any treatment is started.

A safe and effective cancer treatment method

Treatment is safe and effective. External radiation treatment takes only a few minutes, usually given over a number of days or weeks as an outpatient. This means that many patients are able to continue their normal routines but some people may develop side effects, that are related to the region of the body treated.

The latest technology makes radiotherapy even safer

At Cancer Centre London (CCL), we have a sophisticated radiation treatment delivery machine, called the Elekta Versa HD, which enables high-precision treatment in managing wide a range of cancers including those in the head and neck, lung, breast and prostate. The Elekta Versa HD is used to deliver advanced highly targeted stereotactic external radiation treatment to the brain, lung, liver and bones.

We deliver heart-sparing radiation treatment for left sided breast cancer, using our Active Breathing Coordinator (ABC) system. These advance methods of delivering radiation is more accurate and safer for patients.

You no longer need a ‘permanent tattoo marking’ before treatment

CCL also offers relatively new ‘tattoo-less’ radiotherapy using new high-tech 3D camera technology – ‘Alignrt’. This means patients no longer need to receive permanent markings prior to starting radiotherapy treatment. In addition the Alignrt system is used for ‘live’ monitoring of patient position and movement throughout each treatment session.

More information about radiotherapy at CCL can be found here.

You can book an appointment at CCL here.

Date: 09/12/2020
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