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Is radiation therapy safe?

Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses targeted x-rays or gamma rays to treat and manage cancer safely and effectively.

Is it safe to have radiation therapy?

Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses radiation to safely treat and manage cancer by destroying cancer cells, reducing the growth and spread of cancer or relieving cancer symptoms. Radiation therapy directly attacks cancer cells and limits damage to healthy cells, as cancer cells are more sensitive to radiation.

Unlike extreme exposure to radiation, such as in nuclear accidents, natural sources of radiation, or uncontrolled environments, where radiation is not controlled and can cause further health issues, radiation therapy treatment is delivered in a quality controlled, safe environment.

At each appointment safe doses of radiation is delivered to the tumour with precision accuracy. The treatment uses safe doses of radiation given over multiple sessions to allow the body time to recover between each treatment session. When small, controlled doses of radiation are provided over a period of days and weeks, normal cells can recover from the radiation, but cancer cells cannot, helping destroy the tumour. Radiation is a non-invasive treatment and is typically painless, similar to having an x-ray, and is targeted to the part of the body being treated.

Does radiation therapy make you radioactive?

Radiation therapy does not make you radioactive. External radiation beam therapy (EBRT) delivers high energy x-rays to a specific area of the body, which means the radiation doesn’t stay in your body before or after treatment. It’s completely safe for you to be around other people, including, elderly people, children and pregnant women.

Should you receive permanent brachytherapy, where a radioactive source is placed beside or inside your tumour, you may be slightly radioactive for a short time. The risk to your loved ones is very low, however you may need to avoid prolonged contact with young children and pregnant women during this period. This is because children and foetuses are more sensitive to radiation exposure than adults.

Should I consider radiation therapy treatment?

Radiation therapy contributes to 40% of all cancer cures world-wide and is a proven method of treatment to relieve symptoms of cancer, such as pain, and improving the quality of life for patients, particularly during palliative care.1 Advanced cancer can have severe side effects such as pain in the bones, and bleeding from the lung or bladder, radiation therapy can effectively relieve these symptoms, or in 75% of cases remove them entirely.

For cancers such as breast, bowel and prostate, radiation therapy is a highly effective treatment and can also help reduce the risk of the cancer returning after surgery, or can help surgical procedures be more successful long-term. In certain cancers, radiation therapy can be given alongside other treatments, such as hormone therapy, or it can be given as the main course of treatment without the need to have invasive surgery.

In the last 10 years, radiation therapy technology has advanced at an exponential rate. This cutting-edge technology and new proven treatment techniques, alongside increased specialist training has benefited cancer patients making radiation treatment faster, more accurate and more effective.
Speak to your doctor to understand if radiation therapy is suitable for your diagnosis.

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