What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy is the treatment of cancer with ionized radiation. The high dose radiation applied for radiotherapy can kill cancer cells and prevent their growth. Radiotherapy is highly effective on cancer cells which grow rapidly compared to normal cells.

Radiotherapy constitutes for 60% of cancer treatments and currently used as a targeted treatment method. The area with tumor is identified and only the cancer cells are irradiated with high dose radiation during radiotherapy. Since radiotherapy is a regional treatment method, patients can go on with their daily lives after daily sessions of 15 to 20 minutes.

Radiotherapy not only offers an effective treatment for the patient but also maintain a quality life after the treatment. Therefore, instead of irradiation therapies applied to completely eliminate cancer tissue on large areas of the body are replaced with treatments which completely surround the tumor and target only the cancerous area. Thus, the normal tissues are preserved better and tumors can be kept under control easier thanks to the use of high dose radiation. Although it is not possible to completely preserve the normal tissue from radiation, patients are provided comfort via irradiation within their tolerance ranges.

For Which Types of Cancer Treatment is Radiotherapy is Used?

Radiotherapy technology develops everyday as high energy radiation is used for cancer treatment and it is currently used as primary option for treatment of many types of cancer. The method yields desired results when used as the only treatment for gynecologic cancers, head and neck cancers and prostate cancer for its features of preserving organs. It is used postoperatively for brain cancer and can be used as only treatment method especially for its feature of destroying small lesions.

Radiotherapy can be used for almost all types of cancer while it is the only treatment method for certain cancer types. Radiotherapy can sometimes be preoperatively used to reduce the tumor size. It may also be used to eliminate possible postoperative residual cancer cells for certain tumors. Radiotherapy is given to more than half of cancer patients in addition to treatments such as surgery and medical treatment.

The most common cancers for which radiotherapy is used

  • Skin cancers
  • Head & neck cancers
  • Brain tumors
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostatic cancer
  • Urinary bladder cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Gynecologic cancers
  • Soft tissue tumors
  • Bone tumors
  • Gastrointestinal cancers
  • Lymphomas
  • Pediatric tumors

How Long Does Radiotherapy Take?

Radiotherapy usually takes between 3 to 7 weeks, applied 5 days a week. This period may be shorter in palliative therapies. Total dose is divided into daily fractions in order to protect healthy tissues and cells. Pauses at weekends allow normal cells to renew. The total dose and number of sessions may vary depending of type of cancer, its localization, your general health status and other treatment you receive.