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Alternatives to Radiation Therapy

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Alternatives to Radiation Therapy

Alternative treatments may not cure cancer, but they can help people manage symptoms associated with both the disease and its treatment. They provide comfort from pain, fatigue, nausea and other signs and symptoms caused by cancer treatments and procedures. While many of these therapies aren’t provided by traditional healthcare providers yet, research is proving their benefits more and more frequently.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a broad field that encompasses numerous therapies like herbal products, vitamins and minerals, as well as certain foods. Recently, CAM has become increasingly integrated into cancer treatment plans; some research suggests it may even reduce side effects from radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy is a type of treatment that uses high-energy particles to destroy cancer cells and stop them from spreading. It has become widely used and effective for treating various kinds of cancer.

Radiation therapy is designed to deliver enough doses of radiation to kill cancer cells while minimizing harm to healthy tissues and organs. There are various types of radiation therapy, each used for different purposes.

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) delivers precise radiation to the tumor and less to surrounding healthy tissues, making this treatment particularly effective for treating tumors close to vital organs like the brain or spinal cord.

Proton beam therapy is an effective way to deliver high-energy radiation that destroys cancer cells while sparing healthy tissues. Instead of using x-rays, proton therapy uses protons accelerated at high speed in a machine called a synchrotron or cyclotron. The protons’ rapid acceleration causes them to travel deep inside the body, where their high speed energy causes them to destroy cancer cells.

Proton therapy offers several advantages, including fewer side effects and the ability to target a small area of the body without harming other tissues. Patients typically receive this treatment as outpatients without needing to be hospitalized for it.

Some tumors can be treated with brachytherapy, a technique in which tiny needles are inserted into the body to administer radioactive substances. This treatment has proven successful for treating uterine, cervical and prostate cancers.

Intra-operative radiation therapy (IORT) is a safe and effective method for delivering an intense burst of radioactive material directly into tumors without harming surrounding organs or tissues. This procedure has become increasingly commonplace in Europe, and now also in the United States.

Partial breast irradiation is another option for women who have undergone lumpectomy surgery and want to reduce the likelihood of cancer returning. With this procedure, a smaller area of the breast receives daily doses of radiation over an extended period of time.

These techniques can be combined with other cancer treatments or served as a stand-in replacement. Combining these modalities can offer significant advantages in terms of quality of life, such as increased years of survival and decreased symptom burden.

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