According to the Australian government, 67,800 courses of radiation therapy were delivered in 2017-18. This number was 63,500 in the preceding year. Undoubtedly, many Australians see radiotherapy as a beneficial treatment for cancer. However, there are very few people who think radiotherapy is ineffective in treating this disease.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancerous cells. The spread of cancer is halted by the destruction of these cells, which multiply faster than the healthier cells. These cancerous cells need to be killed because they lack the growth controls that the normal cells have.
So, in a nutshell, radiation therapy not jut kills the cancerous cells, it also stops the growth of cancer to surrounding areas. Naturally, radiation therapy has come to find its usage in various branches of medical science.
Uses and Benefits
This therapy is used in many kinds of cancer. Nearly 60% of all cancer cases require radiation therapy for effective treatment. The following cancers can be treated by radiation therapy;
- Head and Neck
Certain cancers respond very well to radiation therapy. If these cancers are detected well before metastasis, they can be cured to a large extent. These cancers are; head and neck, skin and lip, breast cancer, cancer of cervix and endometrium, Hodgkin’s disease, retinoblastoma, medulloblastoma, etc.
A few other cancers respond in a very limited way to radiotherapy. These cancers are- Wilms tumour, cancer of the colorectal area, soft tissue carcinoma, embryonal carcinoma of the testis, etc.
However, radiotherapy has its share of side-effects as well. What are they?
Since this therapy uses high energy rays to target and kill cancerous cells, there is some possibility that surrounding cells (which are healthy) might also be affected. This may cause some side effects. Another source of possible side- effects is the nature of the rays used in radiation therapy. Let’s look at some possible side-effects.
- The patient gets tired after receiving this therapy. The cause of this tiredness is that normal cells have to expend energy replenishing themselves after some of them are killed.
- The area receiving radiation may become red and sores may develop over it.
- There can be other side-effects that are site-specific. For example, if there is cancer in the lung area, there might be some lung-specific side-effects. If someone has carcinoma of the head and neck, he might get sores in his mouth and gums, and may experience difficulty in swallowing. There might be some dryness in his mouth also. These patients may experience hair loss, nausea, and a special kind of swelling called lymphedema.
- There is a thin possibility of another cancer coming up. This side-effect is a function of the site of existing cancer and the age of the patient.
- Some people experience itchiness or dryness of skin after receiving radiation therapy. This side-effect may go away after the treatment ends, but if it persists, the patient should see his doctor once again.
You need not pay any medical cost if you are undergoing radiation therapy at a public-private therapy centre. A public authority owns this centre though operated by a private entity.
If you want to be treated at a private centre, you need to pay a specific gap value. This value is the difference between your Medicare and the actual cost of cancer treatment. In many cases, you will have to pay the entire medical cost upfront; you can claim your rebate later.
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