Surgery and chemotherapy have long been the ideal treatment for lung cancer, but it is not the right treatment for everyone. Today a highly targeted treatment, radiation therapy, is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT), which is coming up as the most successful alternative treatment for patients with lung cancer.
Radiation therapy for lung cancer uses powerful, high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells. Radiation may be given from outside the body or from radioactive substances placed directly inside the lung cancer tumor, which is known as an internal implant, which we discuss later in this blog. However, radiation therapy that uses external ways is the most commonly used. External radiation targets the lung cancer tumor and destroys the cancerous cells, specifically in that area of the lungs.
How Does Radiation Therapy Help Treat Lung Cancer
When healthy cells change and start growing out of control, it is called cancer or early-stage cancer. All cells follow a cycle to grow, they divide and multiply, but the cancer cells go through this process much faster than normal. Radia therapy is mainly used to damage and kill the DNA, so the cells stop growing.
Unlike other treatments which affect the entire body, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy does not affect the entire body. It is usually a local treatment that focuses on the part of the body where the cancer is located. Some healthy tissue near the cancerous cells may get damaged due to radiation, but it usually heals after treatment ends.
There are several types of radiation therapy, and they all target and destroy cancer cells differently.
Types Of Radiation Therapy
Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)
Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy involves sophisticated image guidance that pinpoints the exact three-dimensional location of a tumor. It delivers exceptionally precise and intense doses of radiation to cancer cells. SBRT helps to use high doses of radiation in a small number of doses. This approach is termed hypofractionated radiation therapy, which delivers high doses with extreme precision. Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy is commonly used for treating early-stage diseases where the tumor is tiny and the cancer is limited to the lungs.
University Cancer Centers has a team of expert oncologists with extensive experience in using this technique, destroying tumors 90% of the time with limited side effects.
Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (Proton Therapy)
Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy is an advanced radiation therapy used to treat cancer and noncancerous tumors. IMRT utilizes several small photon or proton beams of different intensities to precisely and accurately destroy a tumor. The radiation intensity of each beam is finely controlled, and the beam shape changes throughout each treatment. Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy aims to follow the radiation dose, reduce exposure to healthy tissue, and limit the side effects of treatment.
The oncologists use proton therapy to treat some cases of lung cancer. This advanced therapy allows the doctor to deliver the necessary dose to the tumor, maximizing the chance of destroying it.
Brachytherapy (Internal Radiation Therapy)
People with lung cancer are also a candidate for Brachytherapy. Brachytherapy utilizes radioactive material sealed inside a thin tube in the body during surgery to help lessen the risk of cancer returning after treatment. This also helps to deliver high doses of radiation to the airways utilizing a specialized approach called endobronchial Brachytherapy.
Brachytherapy is generally used to treat patients whose cancer has returned in the larger airways.
There are two different types of Brachytherapy (Internal Radiation Therapy):
Permanent implants utilize a capsule about the size of a grain of rice containing radioactive material. It delivers most of the radiation therapy around the implant area. Sometimes, some radiation may exit the patient’s body and require safety measures to protect others from radiation exposure. With time the implants lose radioactivity, but the seeds remain in the body.
Temporary Internal Radiation Therapy
This therapy is performed using a needle inserted via a tube called a catheter or through special applicators. The radiation usually stays in the body from a few minutes to a few days. However, most people receive internal radiation therapy for just a few minutes.
Sometimes the patient is given radiation therapy for more time, so they are kept in a private room to limit other people’s exposure to radiation.
The Goals Of Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy goals depend on your type of cancer and how far it has spread. Radiation therapy can be given alone and sometimes with other treatments as a part of a treatment plan. Below are some of the ways radiation therapy is used.
Primary Treatment: Radiation therapy is used as the primary treatment to get rid of all the cancerous cells and stop them from coming back.
Before Other Treatments: Radiation therapy is also given before other cancer treatments. It is usually given before surgery to shrink a large tumor. This is termed “neoadjuvant therapy.”
After Other treatment: Radiation therapy is also used to destroy remaining cancerous cells. This process is known as “adjuvant radiation therapy.”
Relieve Symptoms: Radiation therapy is also used to relieve cancer symptoms, termed “palliative radiation therapy.”
Radiation therapy is used to treat different types of cancer. Around 50% of the people with cancer receive radiation therapy as the primary treatment or in conjunction with other treatments. For some cancer, radiation therapy alone proves an effective treatment; some cancer responds best to a combination of treatments.
Stereotactic Body Radiation (SBRT) Therapy is currently proving the best treatment for treating lung cancer. Radiation therapy is also used to treat recurrent cancer and metastatic cancer. Cancer that comes back after treatment is known as recurrent cancer, whereas metastatic cancer is cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy For Lung Cancer
While radiation therapy is used to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells, it can damage nearby healthy cells, and damage to healthy cells can lead to side effects and other adverse conditions.
People who have gone through radiation therapy for lung cancer have complained about experiencing fatigue, nausea, hair loss, shortness of breath, and more.
- Mild skin reactions.
- Sore throat.
- Throat problems, such as trouble swallowing.
- Hair loss.
- Shortness of breath.
Ensure to discuss the concerns, possible side effects, or any effects you experience with your doctor.
Radiation therapy may damage the nearby healthy cells, but they usually recover within a few months after the treatment is over. Other side effects may last up to months or sometimes a year after the radiation therapy gets over. These side effects are also termed late effects. All the side effects caused by radiation therapy usually end after months and years. If you experience any such side effects after that, consider consulting your oncologists or your nearest doctor.
The esophagus, in the middle of the chest, is usually exposed to radiation during treatment, causing sore throat and trouble swallowing. This may trouble you eating anything hard, except some soft foods and liquids. However, this condition also stays for a while and usually goes away after the treatment.
Eligible Candidates For Radiation Therapy
A multidisciplinary team determines who is the right patient for radiation therapy. SBRT (Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy) is an exceptionally good treatment for patients with early-stage lung cancer. Patients with a high risk of surgical complications can also be candidates for SBRT, such as elderly patients and patients with cardiac or pulmonary disease.
SBRT is now offered to cancer patients as a frontline treatment for early-stage lung cancer. Radiation therapy is most commonly used to treat patients diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer or patients who choose not to have surgery. However, radiation therapy can also limit disease progression in patients with advanced lung cancers.
Radiation therapy is also used before and after the surgery or chemotherapy to shrink the tumor and block the chances of the tumor returning after the treatment. Unlike other cancer treatments, radiation therapy for lung cancer specifically targets the cancerous cells and destroys them without affecting the other parts of the body.
There are different types of radiation therapy for lung cancer. All radiation therapy helps to destroy cancerous cells and stop them from growing. Radiation therapy is also used to relieve cancer symptoms.
University Cancer Centers provides advanced radiation therapy for lung cancer. With the help of expert and highly skilled oncologists and state-of-the-art technologies, it delivers powerful radiation therapy with utmost precision. It mainly provides radiation therapy to patients with early-stage lung cancer or those who are denied to have surgery. It also provides radiation therapy to relieve cancer symptoms and improve the quality of life in people whose cancer doesn’t respond to surgery or chemotherapy.Fh2Fh