Cancer is a devastating diagnosis, affecting approximately 14 million new people per year per the National Library of Medicine. As technology and research has advanced, the possibility of survival has increased in tandem with the application and understanding of radiation therapy. Out of the 14 million individuals diagnosed with cancer, a significant percentage may achieve cure/remission, and depending on the type of radiotherapy used, long-term survival rates may increase. Unfortunately, many misconceptions continue to surround radiotherapy, including the duration of a radiation treatment course and whether a specific type of cancer is susceptible to radiation. In order to clarify some of those misconceptions this article aims to clarify a few points about radiotherapy treatment and how frequently it is used.
When Is Radiation Therapy Necessary?
Radiation therapy is an effective treatment for many types of cancers and studies suggest that it may be involved in up to 60% of all cancer patient’s care at some point. Prior to receiving treatment, extensive testing and digital imaging are used to develop a specific treatment plan that will target the cancer, based on the type, stage and patient characteristics. Your physician will be able to discuss whether radiation therapy is indicated for your particular type of cancer.
How Often Is Radiotherapy Needed?
In general, those receiving radiotherapy should expect treatments five days per week for several weeks.
Treatment is typically only delivered Monday through Friday. This treatment course of five days per week for several weeks is the most common scenario for radiation treatments, although there are several exceptions. For certain tumors, treatments may be less than five days per week and only last for a week or two. In other situations, such as for certain brain tumors, a single treatment may be recommended.
The specific type of cancer and its characteristics are what are used to determine the exact frequency and duration of radiation therapy. The frequency of radiation therapy is largely dependent on your unique diagnosis, tumor location and treatment plan. Radiotherapy may be used to treat and cure smaller tumors or to attempt to reduce tumor size prior to surgery. It is also useful in helping physicians address surgically inaccessible tumors or those that could pose an added risk for someone living with other health conditions.
Side effects and their severity also influence the frequency of treatment. While generalized side effects exist, different patients may respond to the same treatments quite differently. Severe side effects may warrant an altered treatment plan or additional medications to reduce side effect symptoms.
The total amount of radiation the body can receive for a treated area is highly dependent on the anatomy of the specific area receiving radiation. Different tissues and organs within our body have varying sensitivity to radiation. It is important to note that advancements in radiation technology and delivery allow care providers to administer more radiation in focused areas, depending on individual patient and tumor characteristics. As a result, although people can reach the lifetime dosage limit on one area of the body, that person may still receive radiotherapy for another tumor located elsewhere.
How Long Does a Radiation Therapy Session Last?
Again, the exact length of radiation therapy depends significantly on the characteristics of the cancer. For example, a deeper tumor may require a more-focused beam for a shorter period, but a larger, shallow tumor may be treated the same focused beam for a longer period. Moreover, the location of the tumor and its proximity to other sensitive body tissues will affect radiotherapy planning and treatment. It is a complex question with an answer that is individualized to each patient and their specific anatomy, but most sessions last anywhere between 15 minutes and 45 minutes. The only way to truly define the exact frequency and duration of radiotherapy treatment is with the extensive evaluation that goes into the treatment planning process. Furthermore, a person’s health history will affect treatment planning, so it is best to reserve this question for your consultation or appointment with a radiation oncologist.
Choose an Experienced Radiation Therapy Care Team to Create the Right Treatment Plan for You.
Radiation therapy can reduce the risk of metastasis and improve survival, but it is a unique treatment that depends on each tumor and individual. SERO takes the time and attention needed to craft a detailed treatment program for radiation therapy. This can also be in conjunction with other therapies and treatments used by your oncologist and multidisciplinary care team. SERO is dedicated to reducing your time in treatment through maximized, aggressive treatments when appropriate. Learn more about the possibilities and whether radiotherapy is right for your unique needs by scheduling a consultation online today.