Radiation Therapies Have Improved by Leaps and Bounds

Radiation therapy for cancer treatment has long been proven to be beneficial. This type of treatment, however, presented some potential pitfalls in its application. While high-energy radiation is known to damage DNA so completely that cancer cells die, the cells around a tumor can also be harmed in the process.

Practitioners say advancements in this technology have combined to make radiation treatments safer today than they’ve ever been before. New technologies in the treatment of different types of cancer have enabled doctors to better pinpoint these therapies to eradicate cancer while sparing as many other cells as possible. Here are just a few of the advancements that have been made to make radiation treatment safer:

• Better positioning for breast cancer patients – A simple change of patient positioning during radiation treatments has proven incredibly beneficial for producing safer results. Rather than have a patient lie on the back, doctors are finding a facedown position pulls radiation away from the heart and lungs while reducing the amount of tissue irradiated in the right breast by 86 percent and 91 percent in the left.
• Prostate cancer spacer gel – This new technique enables a spacing gel to be placed between the prostate and the rectum that effectively moves the rectum out of the way during treatment. This can spare the rectum from taking collateral damage.
• Better insights – Image-guided radiation therapy has enabled doctors to better see a tumor before and during treatment. This, in turn, improves precision and accuracy of treatments.
• Reduced treatment requirements – Some forms of cancer, such as lung, liver and spine, are now requiring fewer treatments courtesy of stereotactic body radiation therapy. This can limit collateral exposure while still proving effective in treatment.
• Better access – Technological advances, such as proton-beam therapy, have enabled doctors to target hard-to-reach tumors better with lower doses of radiation.

Radiation therapy has come a long way in recent years. Thanks to advances, doctors are often able to spare nearby cells while still ensuring effective tumor shrinkage.

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