Typically seen as the less aggressive cousin of chemotherapy, radiotherapy has been undergoing something of a quiet revolution in recent years. Today, many people’s perception of radiotherapy is at odds with the increasingly sophisticated reality of this cancer treatment option.
Curative and cost-effective, smarter targeting systems and better integration with medication have been making radiotherapy more accurate, more comfortable and more effective. In this blog, we’ll be taking a look at the “new” radiotherapy…
How does radiotherapy work?
Let’s begin with the basics. Radiotherapy uses high energy xrays to attempt to destroy human DNA. This may sound scary, but cancer is a disease which affects and takes root in your DNA, causing mutations, genetic duplication and reduction. If you can precisely target human DNA in the affected areas, you can hit cancer right where it hurts and work to eradicate it.
As you might expect, when you fire high energy xrays at any part of your body, the effects will be as harmful for healthy areas as they are for cancerous DNA. This is why we have created Waterjel, to soothe, cool and care for skin affected by radiotherapy. While healthy areas can heal, when you hit mutated DNA with high energy xrays, the cancer cells lack the properties they need to self heal, allowing your body to recover while the cancer is damaged irrevocably.
The treatment is getting more accurate all the time, with doctors now able to target tumours and affected areas with extraordinary precision, from multiple angles using IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy). This minimises the harm the treatment can do to the rest of your body, making the practice far safer and more comfortable.
Proton beam therapy has been another revolutionary new technology in the field of radiotherapy, allowing doctors to reach cancers deep within the body, while doing minimal damage to other cells. Unlike some other radiotherapy treatments, proton beams stop once they have reached the tumour, preventing harmful beams from reaching further into healthy and potentially crucial areas like the brain.
Medication & radiotherapy
While the technologies used to deliver radiotherapy are improving all the time, so too is the understanding of which medications work best alongside them. Oncologists and scientists are becoming increasingly good at prescribing compatible and effective drugs to support, ease and enhance radiotherapy treatment.
Investing in fine tuning
While even newer treatments like immunotherapy cause shockwaves and renew hopes, radiotherapy is still a valid and powerful treatment which should not be overlooked. Effective and cost-effective too, this technique is quietly undergoing a process of continual improvement – which deserves investment. The quiet revolution needs to continue. Support its continued development by donating to Cancer Research UK.