Radiation is a special type of energy carried by waves or particles. It can be produced by special devices or released by substances called radioactive. This energy is used in medicine for imaging purposes as well as to treat cancer and some other diseases. Here is everything you need to know about radiotherapy, the radiotherapy meaning, the relationship between radiotherapy and oncology, and options to receive radiation treatment abroad.
What is Radiotherapy?
As mentioned above, the energy carried by certain particles or waves is labeled as radiation. Special devices are needed to direct the radiation to the diseased organ. Therefore, the radiotherapy definition can be summed up simply as radiation used for medical reasons. In other words, the use of high-dose radiation energy for treatment is called radiotherapy or radiation therapy.
Which Diseases Can Be Cured with Radiotherapy?
Radiotherapy is applied in cancer types that can occur in almost any part of the body and approximately 50% of cancer patients. For some types of cancer, radiotherapy is the only treatment. Radiotherapy is a treatment method that can be applied alone or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy, in which a full recovery can be achieved in many patients. There are various cancer types that respond with high success rates, the most common ones being radiotherapy for prostate cancer and radiotherapy for lung cancer. The general usage of radiotherapy includes;
- In order to shrink the tumor before surgery,
- In order to clean the cancer cells that may have remained at the micro-level in the body after surgery,
- As the primary treatment for the disease alone,
- Without surgery, for immediate treatment with chemotherapy.
In addition, in some cases, where it is impossible to completely cure the disease, a radiotherapy procedure can be applied to reduce the patient’s complaints such as pain and bleeding. This type of treatment is called palliative therapy.
How Is Radiotherapy Performed?
Radiotherapy can be conducted in one of two ways: externally and internally. In some patients, these two forms can be applied in succession.
In most patients, radiotherapy is applied externally. It is an application that is generally performed in treatment centers and outpatient clinics, and it is performed by directing the rays to the diseased tissue using radiotherapy devices. External treatments were carried out in 2D with devices called Cobalt-60 or linear accelerator until recent years. In two-dimensional treatments, normal tissue damage and radiotherapy side effects were more common, as wide safety margins were required to deliver sufficient doses to the target volume.
However, thanks to the technological changes in radiotherapy devices in recent years, three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy, IMRT (Intensity-Modulated Radiotherapy), VMAT Radiotherapy, and Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (linac-based, Gammaknife, Cyberknife) are the up-and-coming techniques that apply maximum dosage to the target volume, while it can be ensured that the normal tissue receives a minimum dose. Once the decision is made to administer radiation therapy, the doctor will also decide which device is more suitable for the patient.
In internally applied radiation, the radioactive material or source is placed directly into the tumor or a body cavity with thin wire or tubes. Sometimes, it can be placed in the remaining space after surgery. Internal radiotherapy uses are mostly common in stubborn and advanced types of tumors that are hard to cure in an alternative option.
In radiation therapy, this is the treatment that provides an ablative (destructive) radiation dose to certain points and maximum protection of normal tissues. These treatments are often used most effectively in tumors of 3 cm or less. Its use in patients who cannot undergo surgery in the early stage of lung cancer is the most common application area. It can also be applied individually to metastatic disease areas. Treatment is often performed with 1-3 applications after special planning. It is a painless treatment method with minimal side effects.
What to Expected Before & During Radiotherapy?
Before starting the treatment, the patient takes off his clothes and puts on a gown. For this reason, it is recommended to come to therapy with clothes that can be changed easily.
The radiotherapy technician uses previously marked lines on the patient’s skin to identify the treatment area. The patient should sit in a special chair or lie on the treatment table. Although each session requires 15 to 30 minutes in the treatment room, the delivery of the radiation dose takes place in 1 to 5 minutes. External radiotherapy is as painless as an X-ray.
The patient does not need to hold their breath during the procedure, and only normal breathing is sufficient. During the sessions, the defined dose must be given most sensitively, the rays reach the right place in the body, the patient’s location has not deteriorated throughout the treatment, the same position is created in each treatment, and that the environment is immobilized in order to ensure the comfort of the patient in the best way. In this process called immobilization (fixation), accessories such as head and neck masks, vacuum mattresses, under-knee stabilizers or shoulder pullers can be used depending on the treated area.
The radiotherapy technician leaves the room before the beam is delivered. The devices are controlled from a small area nearby. The patient can also watch through a monitor or window. Meanwhile, when the patient speaks, their voice can be heard through the loudspeaker, and the technician can be contacted. A noisy environment may occur when radiotherapy devices rotate around the treatment area at different angles due to their large structures. However, it is important to remember that the patients are operated on by the relevant technicians, and their operation is regularly checked.
Radiation cannot be seen, heard, or felt in any way. However, if a situation occurs during the treatment session in which the patient will feel very bad or uncomfortable, the technician should be informed immediately. When necessary, the operation of the devices can be stopped immediately.
What Are the Side Effects of Radiotherapy?
External radiotherapy does not make the body radioactive. Therefore, there is no need to avoid contact with people receiving treatment. Furthermore, even during physical contact, no risk will negatively affect other people.
The radiotherapy effects usually consist of complaints in the treated area. The doctor and nurse advise the patient on how to manage these side effects. The doctor or nurse should be informed about complaints such as cough, fever, sweating, or unusual pain during the treatment. Side effects usually disappear within a few weeks after the end of treatment and can be controlled with medications or diet. Side effects that may last longer can also be managed with appropriate treatments.
The doctor monitors the effectiveness of the treatment. After the treatment, it is felt that pain, bleeding, and other similar complaints decrease, and other signs of improvement appear over time. The doctor may also order some blood tests while monitoring the treatment effects. It is normal for these numbers to be low during treatment.
Many patients nowadays choose foreign countries in order to receive radiotherapy treatment. Turkey, Australia, Thailand, Germany, and Spain are the most forth-coming countries selected by millions each year to undergo cancer treatments such as GammaKnife, CyberKnife, IMRT, and VMAT. To learn more about radiation therapy options abroad, click here.
Various cells have various purposes within the body, whereas stem cells are a relatively new concept to oncology that do not have a specific role yet but can evolve into any type of cell in case of need. Here is everything you need to know about stem cells, including what stem cells are, what are some of the most common types of stem cells, what function they perform, and what kind of uses they have in modern medicine.
What is a Stem Cell?
A stem cell is actually the term used to refer to the body’s raw material – cells from which all of the other cells are generated and therefore gain specialized function. Stem cells divide to form more cells provided the right conditions, in which these divided cells are referred to as “daughter cells.” Modern-day stem cells research has proven a variety of medical fields they can be used in, from generating healthy organ tissue to battling cancer.
How Are Stem Cells Formed?
Stem cells types can be categorized by their sources: embryos and adult body tissues. There has been ongoing research in the medical community on ways to develop stem cells from other cells with the assistance of genetic reprogramming techniques. Let’s take a close look at the types of stem cells that may help comprehend the stem cell definition better:
Adult Stem Cells
The human body generates and contains stem cells throughout life, and the body chooses to use these stem cells whenever it sees fit. Adult stem cells can also be referred to as somatic stem cells or tissue-specific cells and can exist throughout the body from the time an embryo begins to develop.
While these cells are considered in a non-specific state, they have a more specialized function when compared to embryonic stem cells. Stem cells remain in this non-specific condition until the body requires them for a specific cause, such as muscle or skin cells. Our daily life requires the body to constantly renew tissues, where the stem cells function comes in. They regularly divide in order to procreate new body tissue for repair and general maintenance.
The brain, bone marrow, blood, blood vessels, skin, liver, and skeletal muscles are only a few of the bodily tissues that stem cells can be found in. However, it is a known fact that stem cells are quite hard to locate. Until the body summons them to repair a certain area, stem cells can stay non-specific and undivided for years at a time.
Embryonic Stem Cells
Another popular term you might come across when researching stem cells is “stem cells embryonic.” The origin of embryonic stem cells goes back to the very earliest stage of pregnancy. During this time, the sperm fertilizes the egg, and an embryo begins to form. 3 – 5 days after that, the embryo forms into a ball of cells containing stem cells that will later be transformed into the womb.
Embryonic stem cells are usually formed from a ball of cells – also known as a blastocyst – that is around 4 – 5 days old. This is a common technique used during IVF, where the doctors first fertilize several eggs within a test tube, make sure that at least one survives, then implant a limited number of eggs into the womb in order to kickstart the pregnancy.
The blastocyst that forms after the embryo is implanted into the uterus consists of two parts: an outer mass attached to the placenta and an inner mass that develops into the human baby. Embryonic stem cells are found in the inner cell mass, and with the right stimulation, these cells can be transformed into skin cells, blood cells, and any other cell types that the body may need for healing and repair.
Mesenchymal stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells are the other sources of stem cells neurons that can be stumbled upon in medical literature.
What Are the Different Types of Stem Cells?
Different types of stem cells are usually categorized in accordance with their potential to transform into other types of cells. Totipotent, pluripotent, multipotent, oligopotent, and unipotent are the most common stem cell types listed in the classification. While embryonic stem cells are considered the most potent of all, they are considered pluripotent due to the fact that they cannot become a part of the extra-embryonic membranes in any way. Their job is mainly to become every type of cell in the body and act as a wild card in emergencies.
Totipotent cells can differentiate into almost all possible cell types, while pluripotent cells usually form at the early embryo stage. Multipotent stem cells can only differentiate into a few different types of cells, such as adult lymphoid or myeloid stem cells. Unipotent cells, on the other hand, can only produce cells of one kind and of their own type. These types of stem cells are still considered in the “stem cell” category since they can renew themselves.
Various Uses of Stem Cells
There are numerous stem cell uses in modern-day medicine that can be qualified as significant for various reasons. First of all, many stem cells can take on the role of any type of cells under the right circumstances, and with the right stimulation, therefore can regenerate damaged tissue organically. This is a major element in saving lives and repairing damaged tissue and wounds after an illness or a serious injury. Here are some of the most common uses and stem cell benefits today:
This is hands-down the most effective use of stem cells in modern medicine, in which stem cells act as an agent to grow a specific type of tissue or organ. This drastically changes the shortage of organ donors, where a patient would have to wait for a donor for a long time and then undergo an organ transplant for, say, a new kidney.
Cardiovascular Disease Treatment
A 2013 research conducted on laboratory mice has shown that stem cells can form networks of blood-perfused vessels within two weeks of implementation. Scientists hope that this technique can be used to treat patients with cardiovascular diseases.
Brain Disease Treatment
Stem cells may be used in order to treat brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkison’s, where the damaged brain cells can be replaced with new stem cells and bring back the uncontrolled muscle movement or replenish the damaged brain tissue. Research is already underway with differentiating embryonic stem cells into these types of cells.
Cell Deficiency Treatment
Developing healthy heart cells is quite possible with the help of stem cells. These new cells can repopulate the heart with healthy tissue, therefore, repair major heart damage. In addition, pancreatic cells can be transported to patients with type I diabetes in order to replace the insulin-producing cells and create their own immune system.
Blood Disease Treatment
Adult hematopoietic stem cells are now actively being used in order to treat diseases such as leukemia, anemia, and other similar immunodeficiency illnesses. These types of stem cells can be found in the bone marrow and in blood and are able to produce all types of blood cells, specifically red blood cells that carry oxygen and white blood cells that are expert at fighting such diseases.
To find out more about stem cell research and stem cell treatment, click here.