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5 ‘Facts’ That People Wrongly Assume About Radiotherapy

Time to bust some myths.

5 ‘facts’ that people wrongly assume about radiotherapy

Main image via Shutterstock

We’re used to hearing stories about cancer treatments—whether it’s by people around us or when it’s depicted in TV shows and movies—and we’d feel a little scared.

Is it really meant to be that frightening, though? Let’s get to know an aspect of cancer treatment a bit better: radiotherapy.

Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy involves transferring powerful waves of energy to kill cancer cells, disrupt their ability to grow and divide, slowing their growth, and shrinking tumours to allow surgery to be done.

We’re going to correct some common myths you’ve probably heard of before:

#1 Radiotherapy causes cancer to spread

5 ‘facts’ that people wrongly assume about radiotherapy

Image via Shutterstock

This is false. Radiotherapy is commonly given late in the course of cancer to palliate symptoms, often when the cancer is resistant to chemotherapy and the cancer has spread widely, or the patient is too weak to receive other kinds of therapy.

#2 Radiation therapy is painful

5 ‘facts’ that people wrongly assume about radiotherapy

Image via Shutterstock

This is false. Patients would usually feel nothing, though it’s possible to feel slightly warm or a tingling sensation where the radiotherapy is administered. Sometimes, the area treated may become itchy, sore or dry.

#3 Radiotherapy causes skin burns

5 ‘facts’ that people wrongly assume about radiotherapy
Image via Shutterstock

This is false! However, radiotherapy does lead to the skin turning red, darkening, and peeling. The extent of these effects varies from person to person. It’s also not permanent and will improve eventually.

#4 I will lose my scalp hair from going through radiotherapy

5 ‘facts’ that people wrongly assume about radiotherapy

Image via Shutterstock

That depends. If you’re receiving radiotherapy on your head, you would lose some of your scalp hair. But if you’re receiving it on other parts of your body, you won’t lose it.

#5 I cannot go through radiotherapy if I’m pregnant

5 ‘facts’ that people wrongly assume about radiotherapy

Image via Shutterstock

That depends. Radiotherapy is usually delayed for pregnant women as it has teratogenic effects on the foetus—unless the benefits outweigh the risk.

This misconception may have been caused due to radiotherapy given before the death of a cancer patient. 

Ever wonder whether radiotherapy treatment can be of a better experience?

Cancer patients can now rejoice with the advent of the latest smart radiotherapy machine, HalcyonTM, which integrated with intelligent features to improve S.A.C.S – Speed, Accuracy, Comfort and Safety of radiotherapy treatment.

By using this latest technology, radiotherapy that takes a quarter of an hour or more could be over in less than two minutes. The fast-speed treatment requires patients to keep still for much shorter periods. This is of huge benefit because the slightest movement can cause the radiotherapy beam to stray off target, damaging healthy cells rather than cancerous ones.

5 ‘facts’ that people wrongly assume about radiotherapy

Image via Beacon Specialist Hospital

Its patented dual-layer multi-leaf collimator, MLC also enables accurate delivery of the radiation dose to the tumour. The function of MLC is to shape the radiation beam to match the exact size, shape, and position of the tumour. Unwanted radiation beams reaching to surrounding cells of the targeted area would be considerably reduced as the interleaf leakage of this machine is low at 0.01%, compared to 4% leakage by other IMRT machine, thus, minimising side effects experienced by the patients.  

Designed to maximise patient comfort, its advanced technology offers quick and quiet treatment. A spacious 100cm diameter bore with integrated ambient lighting for patient’s comfort and relaxation, put claustrophobic patients at ease. Besides, couch descends low to the ground for easy loading and unloading of the patients.

When it comes to safety, it is 100% image guided to reduce uncertainties during the patient setup stage. There is also a camera mounted on the couch of the machine that travels with the patient, enabling the radiographer to clearly monitor the patient during treatment. The gantry is also enclosed to prevent any chance of collision with the patient. Its collision detection technology will pause treatment or motion, in case a patient bumps the wall of the bore which rarely happens. 

HalcyonTM, which won the latest prestigious 2018 R&D 100 Awards, is now available in Southeast Asia at Beacon International Specialist Centre. It can be used to treat head & neck, lung, breast, prostate, cervix and other forms of cancer

5 ‘facts’ that people wrongly assume about radiotherapy

Image via Beacon Specialist Hospital

For more information about Halcyon, visit http://www.beaconhospital.com.my/varian-halcyon-radiotherapy/.

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