Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment. It consists of exposing the cancer cells of a tumour to radiation (also called rays or radiation) that prevent the multiplication of diseased cells and lead to their destruction. These radiations are produced either by particle accelerators (“external” radiation therapy) or by small radioactive sources in direct contact with the tumour (brachytherapy). This is called tumour “irradiation”.
Radiation therapy is frequently used during the treatment of cancer, but it is not systematic. It can also be combined with other treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy. Its indication depends on the type of cancer, its course and the general condition of the patient. The doctor who specialises in radiotherapy is a cancer doctor called a “radiotherapy oncologist” or “radiotherapist”.
External radiation therapy:
Most often, this treatment is carried out on an outpatient basis, i.e. the patient is not hospitalised. You are not “radioactive” during treatment, and it is not dangerous for your family or loved ones. The number of sessions is variable and can also be changed during treatment, if necessary. Most often, radiation therapy is given for five consecutive days (at the rate of one session per day), and for several weeks. The external radiation therapy method delivers one or more high-energy X-ray beams to the tumour. The beams are generated outside the patient by a linear particle accelerator and are targeted to the tumour’s location. Advanced radiotherapy techniques aim to maximise the radiation dose on the tumour by minimising the dose received by healthy tissues surrounding the tumour. In our centres, advanced radiotherapy techniques include IMRT (conformational intensity modulation radiotherapy), VMAT (volumetric modulated arc therapy) and stereotactic radiotherapy.
External radiation therapy in stereotactic conditions:
This is a high-precision technique consisting of delivering a high dose of radiation to a small volume to be treated while sparing as much as possible the healthy tissues around the lesion. Given the high accuracy of this technique, immobilization systems are specific and consist of tight-fitting mattresses to retain the patient’s shape for the entire duration of treatment.
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