he cancer It is the main cause of death In Spain and worldwide, after cardiovascular diseases. In 2022, they were diagnosed More than 280 thousand new casesOf these, 160,000 are for men and 120,000 are for women.
According to the Spanish Network of Cancer Registries (REDECAN), the most frequently diagnosed cancers in our country are colorectal, breast, lung, prostate and urinary bladder. Although the most common cancer treatments are chemotherapy and surgery, there are other treatment options that may not be as well known.
Let's talk about oncology Radiotherapy It is a medical specialty that uses radiation to treat cancer patients.
As explained to this newspaper Dr. Carmen Rubiopresident Spanish Society of Radiation Oncology (SEOR), plays an essential role in cancer treatment. “It doesn't have the media impact that other specialties have, but it's not because it doesn't do well,” he explains.
And the data proves its effectiveness. “the 60% of patients require radiotherapy At some stage of the disease, and in 40% of cases it is cured,” the specialist in “Guies” points out. Goodbye .
Its goal is to eliminate the tumor or relieve symptoms in the cancer patient (palliative radiotherapy). It is a local treatment that uses ionizing radiation that focuses on areas of tumor activity and can be used at multiple times of the disease. Radiation therapy can be given using linear accelerators, or through radioactive sources that are placed inside the patient temporarily or permanently.
“Very precise treatment.”
Since its recognition in 1984, radiotherapy has become, along with surgery, one of the most powerful tools for cancer patients. “The advantage is the technological development that has been involved and the penetration of artificial intelligence, which makes treatments more precise and more effective.”
Now, radiotherapy allows treatment in less time with a higher dose “knowing exactly where the area we want to irradiate is and checking in real time whether the treatment is effective, that is, very effective.” a personality“.
The doctor adds that thanks to the donation from the Amancio Ortega Foundation and the money that was invested, most of the equipment has been completed in Radiotherapy In Spain. “This has been achieved in almost all Spanish provinces, as they now have the service and do not have to travel to other cities to receive this treatment.”
It is an organ-preserving treatment that minimizes the impact on surrounding healthy tissue, and is well-suited for a wide range of patients, including the elderly. It is an important part of “Multidisciplinary” treatment. For cancer, radiation oncologists are actively involved in the complete management of the cancer patient, not just radiation therapy.
Radiotherapy: deconstructing myths
It is described by Oncologists Highly qualified clinical oncologists and radiotherapists integrated into multidisciplinary teams: oncologists, medical radiation physicists and radiotherapy technicians using cutting-edge techniques. However, it is still a completely unknown treatment for the population and causes more fear in patients.
The latest generation of accelerators available today turns radiation therapy into a “completely safe, non-invasive treatment.” But there are a number of myths surrounding this treatment that can undoubtedly confuse patients. Dr. Rubio explains them to remove doubts:
- Radiation therapy burns. She's a liar. In some patients it can cause some redness (similar to a mild sunburn) or itching. “It is simply the change caused by ionizing radiation on the skin, although these types of skin reactions are becoming less frequent.”
- Countries. As a rule, radiotherapy does no harm. The effect will depend on the treatment and the area to be treated, because if it affects a nerve “we can produce neuroinflammation that causes pain.” The same applies to chemotherapy, which can cause delayed neuropathy when myelin (the nerve's insulating layer) is damaged.
- It affects others Members. Today's radiotherapy treatments are very precise, so you can select the area to be applied to without affecting other areas in each session.
- Hair loss. Because many patients begin treatment with radiation therapy immediately after completing chemotherapy, this side effect is puzzling. But no, radiotherapy causes hair loss only in the areas where it is applied.
- They emit radiation. It does not emit any type of radioactivity. Patients undergoing radiotherapy do not have to affect their social, work and family relationships.
When is radiotherapy given?
It will be the specialist doctors who will decide when is the best time to apply radiotherapy so that it is most effective against the cancer. There are different types of radiotherapy:
- Neoadjuvant radiotherapy. It is given as initial treatment, before surgery, to reduce the size of the tumor and is usually associated with chemotherapy.
- Radical radiotherapy. It is the only treatment to treat the disease and/or maintain organ function.
- Adjuvant radiotherapy. It is given after surgery or chemotherapy to ensure that all malignant cells are destroyed.
- Concomitant radiotherapy. It is given along with another treatment, such as chemotherapy, to improve results.
- Intraoperative radiation therapy. It is applied during the same surgery.
Depending on the form of administration can be distinguished:
- External radiation therapy. The radiation is generated and emitted by linear accelerators, which are large machines capable of performing this treatment.
- Internal radiotherapy. In a type of radiation therapy, also called brachytherapy, seeds, strips, or capsules containing radiation (radioisotopes) are placed inside the body.
How long does the treatment take?
Depending on the dose given and the total number of sessions, radiotherapy can last between two and seven weeks. The doctor gives an example: “Patients with brain metastases who are treated in one session.”
Protons: modern radiotherapy
Protons are the “new generation” of radiotherapy. “Its role is being studied in patients who were exposed to radiation once and relapsed,” says the doctor. However, according to the Spanish Society of Radiation Oncology (SEOR), it is considered the treatment of choice for the following tumors:
Eye tumors, including ocular melanomas.
Tumors near or at the base of the skull, including chordomas and chondrosarcomas.
Primary or metastatic tumors of the spinal cord/vertebral column.
Tumors in children, especially those in the central nervous system and/or near organs at risk (marrow, heart, lungs).
Patients with hereditary syndromes are at high risk for toxicity.
Re-irradiation in selected cases.
But the specialist confirms, “Today, it is as if we want it to be another tool, and not all people with cancer need proton therapy. We cannot believe that a patient who does not receive it is not treated better, only that he does not.” “I do not need it”.
“Infuriatingly humble social media buff. Twitter advocate. Writer. Internet nerd.”