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Radiation Oncology: Understanding the Role of Radiation Therapy in Cancer Treatment


Cancer is one of the leading causes of death all over the globe, causing one in six deaths. This high mortality rate and the impact of the medical condition on the overall quality of life results in the increasing need for consistent technological advancements in the field. Radiation Oncology is one such advancement that improves cancer treatment and its outcomes.

Radiation therapy, along with chemotherapy and surgery, is considered the cornerstone in the treatment of cancer. It includes the use of high-energy radiation to kill the cancer cells without causing much damage to the healthy tissues. ClearMedi Healthcare, as one of the leading cancer treatment hospitals, provides world-class services and the use of advanced equipment to provide effective treatments and help people restore their original quality of life.

What is Radiation Treatment for Cancer?

Radiation therapy or radiotherapy stands as a pivotal discipline within the field of cancer treatment, harnessing carefully targeted and regulated doses of high-energy radiation to target and kill malignant cells. The procedure of radiotherapy for cancer is precise, and it targets the cancer cells while minimizing the dose to the healthy tissues from the intense radiation beams.

Radiation therapy can be given inside or outside the body. The most commonly used is external beam radiation therapy; the other main kind is internal radiation therapy. Your radiation oncologist can recommend the type of radiation therapy that suits you based on your condition and the type of cancer you have.

Who are Radiation Oncologists?

Radiation oncologists are specialists who have expertise in the field of radiotherapy for cancer. They thoroughly evaluate and assess your condition and work closely with medical oncologists, surgeons, and other doctors to provide you with the most appropriate and comprehensive care.

Types of Radiation Therapy

Radiation Treatment for Cancer aims to kill the DNA of cancerous cells. The procedure of radiation therapy can be performed in two main types- external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and internal radiation therapy that focuses on targeting the tumor and killing the cancer cells.

1. External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)

This Procedure delivers high-energy beams of radiation from outside the body using a specialized machine called linear accelerator. The high-energy radiation can be in the form of X-rays (most common), protons, or electrons. The machine used for Radiotherapy for Cancer precisely targets the intense beams to the tumor while protecting the surrounding tissues from the harmful beams. There can be a variety of techniques of External beam radiation therapy which are as follows:

  1. 3D conformal radiation therapy: In this kind of  Radiotherapy for Cancer, the expert oncologists create a detailed 3D model of the tumor with the use of the technologies of CT Scans and computer software. Then this model is used to guide and target the radiation beams to the cancer site with little damage to the surrounding tissues.

  2. Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): This is a more complex form of Radiation Treatment for Cancer in which the intensity of the radiation beams is changed within the beam (using beamlets) depending upon the needs during the procedure to maximize normal tissue sparing.

  3. Arc-based radiotherapy: It is a form of IMRT in which high-energy radiation beams of varying intensity are delivered in a rotational arc-like pattern. This procedure reduces treatment time and minimizes radiation exposure to healthy organs. The two forms of arc-based radiotherapy for cancer are Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) and tomotherapy.

  4. Image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT): This kind of EBRT involves the use of real-time imaging like X-rays or CT Scans before and during each treatment to ensure precise targeting to the tumor and sparing the healthy tissues.

  5. Particle therapy: This kind of Radiation Treatment for Cancer involves the use of protons instead of photons. This can help to deliver the same dose of beams to the tumor and spare the healthy tissues.

  6. Stereotactic radiosurgery(SRS) and Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT): These are the kind of specialized procedures that help to deliver high levels of radiation with extreme precision typically in one to five treatment sessions. These procedures ensure surgical precision without actual surgery. SRS is used to treat small tumors in the brain while the SBRT is used for other parts of the body.

  7. Intraoperative radiation (IORT): This is a procedure which involves the use of radiation during surgery. In this kind of Radiation Treatment for Cancer, radiation beams are used to destroy any remaining cancer cells after the tumor has been removed surgically.

 2. Internal Radiation Therapy

This is a kind of Radiation Treatment for Cancer in which radioactive sources are placed near or directly into the tumor. This allows the oncologists to deliver a higher dose of radiation directly to the cancer site without affecting the surrounding healthy tissues. This is called brachytherapy.

Brachytherapy: This kind of Internal Radiotherapy for Cancer involves the implantation/placement of a solid radioactive source placed in seeds, ribbons, capsules, wires or balloons inside or beside a tumor. This radiation source releases radiation to a small area to kill the cancerous cells. In some cases, the sources stay implanted over an extended period of time releasing low doses of radiation for longer periods while in other cases, the implants might emit high doses for shorter periods.

Types of brachytherapy:

Intracavitory : where the source is placed in a body cavity beside the tumor.

Interstitial: where the source is placed directly into the tumor.

Why is Radiation Therapy Used?

The Procedure of radiation therapy is done to kill the cancer cells, shrink tumors, and relieve the symptoms of cancer. It can be used to treat every type of cancer, including breast cancer, Lung cancer, Pancreatic cancer, Kidney cancer, Brain tumors, and others. Radiation Oncology can also be used in conditions that aren’t cancerous, i.e certain benign tumors.

Radiation therapy is used for the following:

  1. It is used as the primary treatment to get rid of all the cancer cells and prevent its recurrence : definitive treatment
  2. To shrink the tumors before complex cancer treatments like surgery. This is called neoadjuvant Radiotherapy for Cancer.
  3. It can also destroy any remaining cancerous cells that still exist after surgery. This is called adjuvant radiation therapy.
  4. It also helps to kill cancer cells that recur after the previous treatment: Reirradiation
  5. In severe or advanced cases, it is used to relieve the signs or symptoms of cancer. This is called palliative radiotherapy for cancer.

How Does Radiation Therapy Work?

First, the patients need to consult an expert of Radiation Oncology who specializes in the field and can provide detailed information about the Procedure, risks, benefits, and everything else. The Procedure of radiation therapy can be divided into three main components.

What Happens Before the Procedure?

The first step of the treatment includes thorough planning to target the tumor and shrink it. They will find the exact spot where the radiation beams will be delivered. Patients may also need a physical exam and imaging. The specialists will brief you on how you can prepare for the Procedure and what to expect. The treatment planning procedure is called a simulation.

Simulation for the Radiation Treatment for Cancer involves the following steps:

  1. Getting in Position: involves lying on the same table used during your treatment. Your radiation oncologist will find you a comfortable spot, and cushions or props can be used to hold you correctly. The radiation oncologist might also use body mold or mesh face masks to keep your body in place and ensure correct alignment. The experts of Radiation Oncology might also make temporary or permanent markings on your body to show which body parts need to receive the radiation.

  2. Getting scans: Then, the specialists will perform specific scans such as a CT scan or an MRI in treatment position, to detect the tumor’s location and customize the X-rays to target the cancer.

This will help the cancer treatment team decide the type and dose of radiation you need based on your condition, concerns, goals, and other factors.

What Happens During the Procedure?

In the internal Radiation Treatment for Cancer, the Procedure is usually performed in a particular outpatient room or a specialized hospital like ClearMedi Healthcare. During this, your radiation oncologist might insert the radiation implant with the help of a small flexible tube called a catheter. Before this process, the patient is given anesthesia so that they don’t feel any pain or discomfort during the Procedure.

The Procedure of external beam radiation therapy uses a machine that aims to produce high-energy beams at the affected parts of the body. For this kind of Radiation Treatment for Cancer, you need to lie down on the table, and the radiation machine moves around you, never touching your body. It delivers the precise dose of radiation to the exact points of your body. The specialists operate the machine, and you can speak to them in case of discomfort using an intercom. This is an outpatient procedure, done on a daily basis for a certain number of days, so you won’t need to stay in the hospital after the treatment.

What Happens After the Procedure?

The hospital stays are not very long after the Procedure of radiotherapy for cancer. In the case of internal radiation therapy, you will be able to go home after a short recovery period on the same day.

In case you have received permanent internal therapy or IV in the Radiation Treatment for Cancer, there can be a slight risk of exposing others to the harmful effects of radiation. The patients must consult their oncologist and take the necessary steps to avoid that. While in EBRT, there are no such risks, and you can go home on the same day and indulge in your daily activities without discomfort.

Potential Effects of Radiotherapy for Cancer

In most cases, Radiotherapy for Cancer is delivered over multiple sessions so they don’t feel the complete dose at once, and it gives time to the healthy tissues to recover, thus reducing the side effects. There can be a variety of risks or side effects, which are site dependent, that include the following:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Headaches
  3. Nausea
  4. Vomiting
  5. Diarrhea
  6. Skin irritation
  7. Hair loss
  8. Mouth sores
  9. Abdominal bloating or cramps
  10. Reduced appetite
  11. A burning feeling in your throat or chest
  12. Pain or a burning sensation when you pee
  13. Sense of urgency to have a bowel movement
  14. Reproductive infertility

Does Radiation Oncology Cause Cancer?

The procedure of radiation therapy involves the use of high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells. However, in some cases, this radiation can cause significant damage to the DNA of healthy cells resulting in the development of a new cancer later in life. This is called secondary cancer.

But the risks of developing a secondary cancer after getting radiotherapy for cancer treatment are very low. And despite the slight risks, the benefits of the procedure in treating the existing cancer far outweighs the risks.

Though the risk of developing a secondary cancer is quite low, there are a variety of risk factors which can contribute to it. They are as follows:

  1. Higher Radiation Dose: In case of higher doses of radiation used during the procedure of radiotherapy for cancer, the risks of developing a secondary cancer are relatively high.
  2. Treatment Area: Radiation therapies performed near organs like lungs, colon, or breasts leads to a higher risk of cancer in those tissues.
  3. Age at Treatment: The patients who undergo radiation treatment for cancer at a young age are more susceptible to secondary cancer due to longer lifespan and more time for cancer to develop.

Safety Measures for Patients After Radiation Therapy

People need to understand that after undergoing the treatment of radiation therapy, their body is in a healing phase and thus more susceptible to infections. They need to follow the following general safety measures to maintain optimal health after radiation oncology:

  1. Pain Management: Patients need to maintain effective communication with the healthcare professional to manage side effects and for efficient pain management.

  2. Skin Care: The affected area can be sensitive, thus patients are advised to wear loose fitting clothing.

  3. Nutrition: You should maintain a healthy, balanced diet to provide your body the nutrients it needs to heal after radiotherapy for cancer. Additionally, drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

  4. Rest: To deal with fatigue and other side effects, patients need to get adequate sleep and don’t push your body too hard in physical exercise.

Safety Measures based on The Type of Radiation Treatment for Cancer 

The precautions to follow based on specific types of therapies are as follows:

  1. External Beam Radiation Therapy: The patient does not give off any radiation outside the treatment room, thus there are no general precautions for visitors. You should talk to the specialist for specific precautions.

  2. Internal Radiation Therapy (brachytherapy): Patients need to follow the following precautions after undergoing radiotherapy for cancer.

    1. Hygiene: Wash your hands thoroughly, especially after using the washroom to prevent infections. Moreover use separate utensils or towels to prevent cross contamination.

    2. Sexual Activity: You should try to avoid sexual activity for a certain amount of time. Talk to your specialists about the necessary precautions regarding sexual activity after undergoing radiation treatment for cancer.
    3. General Visitors: The visitors should follow the specific instructions given by the expert of radiation oncology as they can provide necessary precautions based on the condition of the patient.

Living with Radiation Implants: Long-Term Safety Measures

In some kinds of brachytherapy, permanent implants are used which stay radioactive at a very low level but for an extended period of time. Thus the patients need to follow the following long-term safety measures after the procedure of radiation oncology:

  1. Contact Restrictions: For up to the duration of two months, the patients need to avoid close contact and limit the contact to 5 minutes with pregnant women and children to avoid the consequences of residual radiation from the implants.

  2. Open Communication: Talk to your family and friends about the condition and the safety guidelines that need to be followed to avoid the side effects of the procedure of radiation oncology.

  3. Regular Checkups: Go for regular follow-up appointments to monitor progress and recover safely.

ClearMedi Healthcare: High-Quality Radiation Therapy For Best Results

Radiation Treatment for Cancer is a reliable and effective solution that has been around for over a century. ClearMedi Healthcare is a rapidly expanding healthcare services organization that provides the most advanced Oncology care and Diagnostic Radiology solutions.

Known for our clinical excellence and technology-driven care, we provide the experience of our rigorously trained oncology team, including experts from the field of Medical, Surgical & Radiation Oncology. Every year, we are registering more than 5000 cancer patients, which includes a considerable number of international patients as well.

Advanced Technologies at ClearMedi Healthcare

We are renowned for setting up self-sufficient Radiology departments with 3 Tesla MRI, 128 slice CT scanners, High-end Ultrasound, Time-of-Flight PET CTs, Digital X-rays, etc, and with high-end Linear accelerators and most advanced planning systems. We believe in constantly improving ourselves to provide comprehensive care and the most effective cancer treatments, all at an affordable cost.

Comprehensive Care at ClearMedi Healthcare

The expert specialists of Radiation Oncology at ClearMedi Healthcare undergo specialized training to provide comprehensive care in treating a wide variety of cancers. Our support services include pain management, cancer screening programs, palliative care, psychosocial support, and rehabilitation services. We aim to provide hospital care and prioritize patient safety, comfort, and optimal treatment outcomes.

Wide Reach and Exceptional Services

ClearMedi Healthcare aims to provide quality and affordable services to people. It has over four independent specialty hospitals in Delhi NCR and the Mysore region of India and 15 partner hospitals focused on oncology, particularly Radiation Oncology and tertiary care to reach and cater to the most underserved sections of society. All these hospitals are accredited by NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals), the Gold standard for Hospitals in India. To add value to the lives of the people, ClearMedi is amongst India’s largest Oncology care providers.


  • What can be done to relieve side effects I experience?

Most of the side effects of radiotherapy for cancer are manageable. You just need to eat well, rest and stay hydrated. The specialists also prescribe meds for pain or mouth sores. Additionally supportive therapies like acupuncture or massage can help with fatigue and others.

  • How will I feel while I’m getting treatment? Will I be able to work? Go to school? Take care of my family?

The procedure of radiotherapy is painless but the patients might feel fatigue. You might feel other side effects depending on the treatment area. Most people are able to manage their daily activities, so you can talk to your doctor about it.

  • How Long Does the Treatment Take?

For most types of cancer, the therapy is given 5 days a week for 6-7 weeks. In case of palliative care, the duration is shorter, usually 1 to 2 weeks. The total dose and duration will vary depending on the situation. 

  • Is Radiation Treatment Expensive?

The radiation treatment for cancer can be quite expensive but insurance often covers a significant portion. Additionally, there are various organizations, governments and other programs to provide financial assistance to the patient families.

  • Will radiation therapy affect my ability to have children?

Radiation therapy can affect fertility, especially if it targets the reproductive organs. Patients should discuss with their specialist about the potential risks and the options for fertility preservation if desired.

  • Will I need chemotherapy, surgery or other treatments? If so, in what order will I receive these treatments? How soon after radiation therapy can I start them?

The expert oncologist will tailor the treatment plan based on the kind and severity of the cancer. You might need to undergo chemotherapy or surgery to maximize the effectiveness of the treatment. Talk to your doctor and discuss the personalized treatment plan for you. 

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