15+ Pros And Cons Of Radiation Therapy (Explained)

Radiation therapy uses particles that are high in energy to reduce cancer cells. Cells can grow and reproduce on their own. Cells can replace old partitions and create new ones. Cancer cells produce much faster than our normal cells in the body.

Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA and stopping their growth and division. High-energy beams directly target cancer cells.

Radiation therapy is specifically used to treat the early stages of cancer. This kind of therapy focuses on a specified area. Below are some pros and cons you must go through before concluding.

Brief History Of Radiation Therapy From Radium To Modern Treatments

Radiation Pros And Cons

Pros of Radiation TherapyCons of Radiation Therapy
Death of large cancer cells Damages surrounding tissues 
Kills microscopic diseases Unable to kill tumor cells 
Shrink tumors Wound complication
Relative safetyDevelopment of second cancer 
Outpatient administration is possibleNausea and vomiting
Short recovery time after treatmentSwelling or inflammation in the treated area
Pain relief and symptom managementRisk of secondary cancers

Advantages Of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, when used with other treatments, can eliminate cancer cells in the body. The first step includes creating 3D models of the tumor.

Radiation therapy is solely focused on the position of cancer. Many factors are considered, such as the patient’s physical condition, cancer stage, and tumor positioning. 

Death of Large Cancer Cells 

A tumor has several cancer cells, making it a large proportion inside. Radiation therapy is used to eliminate left-behind cancer cells.

It directly damages their DNA which eventually slows down their growth. This therapy starts working by creating breaks. Radiation is enabled to cause less damage to the body. 

Kills Microscopic Diseases 

Diseases that we cannot see with our naked eye can be easily eliminated through the help of radiation therapy. They are usually present in the outer lining of the tumor. Surgery may not be able to treat these microscopic diseases, but radiation therapy does have a cure. 

Shrink Tumors 

Some tumors shrink quickly, and some may take their own respective time. Radiation therapy is used before the surgery to shrink cancerous tumors in the body. Shrinking of tumors helps relieve mass effects and change cancer patients’ status from unresectable to resectable. 

Relative Safety 

Radiation therapy is harmless and causes no pain as it is performed outside the body. This therapy is primarily focused on the removal of tumors.

It is performed without giving anesthesia to a cancer patient. It has no harmful impact on the patient’s body. The process is incredibly painless. 

Complications Associated With Radiation Therapy

Disadvantages Of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy eliminates cancer cells, but it also affects all the nearby healthy cells. As a result, radiation therapy has a lot of side effects.

Feeling burnt out and exhausted is a common side effect. It will also affect the specific body part you are getting your therapy. Hair loss and vomiting are also common side effects. 

Damages Surrounding Tissues 

Radiation therapy can damage surrounding tissues. All the nearby areas of the tumor can be directly affected. It will also affect your skin. Healthy cells usually start recovering after a few months, but side effects don’t need to improve. Some people also experience late effects. 

Unable to Kill Tumor Cells 

Radiation therapy usually cannot kill cancer cells typically present in areas with less oxygen supply. It also has been unable to eliminate invisible cancer cells on the scanned prints.

One of the significant disappointments of radiation therapy is its inefficiency in destroying cancer cells in enormous tumors. Tumors in lymph nodes are usually skipped as they are invisible. 

Wound Complication

Local tissues are under extreme effect from continuous radiation therapy. The management often skips wound-related complications, but it is something to be concerned about. Poor healing leads to pain, psychological discomfort, and chronic ulceration.

There are potential treatments available to treat poor wound healing. The proper treatment can improve damaged tissues. 

Development of Second Cancer 

The possibility of getting a second cancer is rare. However, sometimes radiation therapy can cause the development of second cancer. Radiation exposure is no less than harm in itself.

The kind of effect radiation has on large tumors can resurface cancer in your body after many years of therapy. It also depends on the dose of radiation. If the dose increases, the possibility of cancer developing in the body also increases. 

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Side effects of radiation therapy might vary based on the treatment location, dose, and individual characteristics. Radiation therapy frequently causes the following adverse effects:

  • 1 Fatigue: A typical adverse effect of radiation therapy is fatigue and energy loss.
  • 2 Skin Changes: The treated area’s skin may become red, itchy, dry, or sensitive.
  • 3 Hair Loss: Head radiation may result in temporary or permanent hair loss in the treated area.
  • 4 Nausea and Digestive Problems: Radiation therapy to the abdomen or pelvis may result in nausea, vomiting, or digestive issues.
  • 5 Appetite Loss: Some people may notice a temporary drop in appetite while undergoing radiation therapy.
  • 6 Radiation Recall: In rare cases, some drugs or environmental conditions can cause a skin reaction in previously irradiated areas.
  • 7 Changes in Taste and Mouth Sores: Head or neck radiation therapy may impair taste buds and cause mouth sores.
  • 8 Swallowing Difficulties: Radiation therapy to the throat or esophagus can induce swallowing difficulties or pain.
  • 9 Long-Term consequences: Long-term consequences, such as tissue fibrosis or secondary malignancies, may occur depending on the dose and area treated.

Type Of Radiation Therapy

  • External Beam Radiation Therapy: Radiation beams from a machine outside the body target cancer.
  • Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy): Radioactive sources placed directly into or near the tumor deliver localized treatment.
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS): Highly focused radiation beams precisely treat small tumors or lesions.
  • Proton Therapy: Protons replace X-rays to deliver radiation, minimizing damage to healthy tissues.
  • Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT): High-dose radiation is delivered directly to the tumor during surgery.
  • Total Body Irradiation (TBI): Radiation to the entire body prepares for stem cell or bone marrow transplant.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

what are the pros and cons of radiation therapy?

Pros: Effective cancer treatment, localized tumor targeting, pain alleviation, non-invasive, potential for combination therapy, and preservation of organ function.

Cons: Potential side effects, lengthy therapy, the risk to neighboring organs, potential long-term effects, cost, limited access to treatment facilities, emotional impact.

Can I have radiation therapy while pregnant?

Radiation therapy during pregnancy necessitates careful thought and planning.

The risks and benefits will be thoroughly weighed, and alternative treatment options may be considered to preserve both the mother’s and the baby’s health.

What types of cancer can radiation treatment treat?

Radiation therapy can treat a variety of malignancies, including but not limited to breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, head and neck cancers, and certain forms of brain tumors.

Is it possible to utilize radiation treatment to treat cancer that has spread to other places of the body?

Radiation therapy can be used to treat cancer that has progressed to other parts of the body, with the goal of relieving symptoms and improving quality of life. in this case, it may not always be curative.

pros cons radiation therapy

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