How does radiotherapy work and who are candidates for this cancer treatment?

Dr. Francisco Cordero, radiation oncologist, assures that almost all cancers are suitable for radiotherapy. The guarantee of this treatment not only depends on the number of times the radiation is performed, but also on a broad view of all the specialists.

Dr. Francisco Cordero, radiation oncologist. Photomontage: Journal of Medicine and Public Health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common type of cancer, accounting for more than 2.2 million cases worldwide and around 685,000 women dying in 2020 due to breast cancer. this sickness.

For this reason, there are many treatments that a patient with breast cancer can go through, most of whom are women. The Journal of Medicine and Public Health had an interview with the radio oncologist, Francisco Cordero, at the Puerto Rico forum against breast cancer, where they could talk with him and other specialists.

In this forum, held during breast cancer awareness month, radiation oncologist Cordero wanted to answer several questions about his professional area, especially this one: which patients can benefit from radiotherapy?

What is radiotherapy?

This procedure uses high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons, to kill or damage cancer cells. Generally, these types of cells grow and divide more quickly to form new cells.

In addition, it acts on the DNA producing small breaks, preventing cancer cells from growing and dividing. Normal cells may also be affected by radiation, but most of them recover and function normally.

This treatment acts locally, that is, it acts on the part of the body that it is directed at, compared to other treatments such as chemotherapy in which the entire body is exposed with drugs.

Some treatments of radiotherapy Systemic drugs use radioactive substances that are given through a vein or by mouth. Although this type of radiation passes through the entire body, the radioactive substance accumulates mainly in the area of ​​the tumor, so that it does not affect the rest of the body.

Who can receive radiation therapy?

According to the American Cancer Society, more than half of people with cancer receive radiation treatment. The decision to use radiotherapy it depends on the type and stage of cancer, and other health problems a patient may have. Sometimes it can be used as an accompanying treatment with chemotherapy.

“The vast majority of women could benefit from the radiotherapy independent of the stadium,” says doctor Francisco Cordero, radiation oncologist.

However, the radiation oncologist also assures that there are several arguments to be able to use this type of therapy with more precision. “All clinical, radiographic and surgical findings, in addition to the characteristics of the tumor, help to determine how much radiation and how great an effect it will have”, adds the doctor.

What is sought with radiotherapy?

The radiotherapy it is not very helpful when the cancer has spread to several places in the body. However, this type of treatment can be used to treat many types of cancer, whether it is just the radiotherapy or in combination with other treatments.

“What we are looking for with the radiotherapy is to try to reduce the local and regional risk. In addition, what we do is also to avoid patients with breast cancer, a mastectomy and thus also prevent the cancer from returning, “concludes the radiation oncologist.

Although each person and each body reacts differently, radiation is used for the following purposes:

  • To cure or shrink early-stage cancer: Some types of cancer are very sensitive to radiation. Therefore, in these types of cases, radiation can be used to reduce the size of the cancer or make it disappear completely.

  • To prevent cancer from recurring or appearing elsewhere: In some cases, the area where cancer most often spreads may be treated with radiation to kill any cancer cells before they become a tumor.

    Sometimes radiation is used to prevent future cancer, it may be given at the same time as radiation given to treat cancer that already exists, especially if the area where the cancer could spread is near the tumor itself .

  • To treat symptoms caused by advanced cancer: Radiation may help relieve problems such as pain, difficulty swallowing or breathing, or intestinal blockages that can be caused by advanced cancer. This is called palliative radiation.

  • To treat cancer that has come back (recurrence): If a person’s cancer has come back, radiation may be used to treat the cancer or to treat symptoms caused by advanced cancer. Some tumors do not respond well to radiation, so radiation may not be used even if they come back.

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