Recent developments in cancer radiation therapy: more positive results, less side effects!

Radiotherapy is considered one of the most important treatments of cancer, and it has been growing rapidly in recent years through modern techniques that treat cancer tumors with high accuracy and a short time period, reinforcing the hope of the patient’s recovery. To highlight this type of cancer treatment, we had a tour in the radiology department at Mount Lebanon Hospital, where we were briefed on the latest and most effective techniques in this field, and we met the specialists in radiology in Mount Lebanon Hospital: Dr. George Farha, and Dr. Caroline Samaha Jabbour, who revealed to us all the information on the important developments that the patient should be aware of.

The treatment plan for cancer patient

Upon diagnosing the cancer tumor, many tests should be undergone by the patient to determine the stage of the disease and the area that needs to be treated. Four weapons could be used to cope with cancer, namely: chemotherapy, radiology, surgeries, and today there is immunotherapy which is a revolution in the treatments of tumors. These treatments could be integrated with each other or one of them could be chosen depending on the treatment plan set by the oncologist, the surgeon, the radiology treatment doctor, the diagnostic radiologist, and the histotechnologist.

As for the radiation therapy, it can be used either to cure or alleviate the symptoms resulting from the spread of the disease such as pain, bleeding, shortness of breath, or to ease the pain of the patient to improve his life. When the treatment is for relieving we can use radiology for all types of cancer, but when the treatment is working as a cure, rays are used for all types of cancer except the cancer of the colon, which, if limited, could be treated surgically and chemically. Five years ago the radiology wasn’t used to treat kidney cancer, but today it became available.

Note that all types of tumors need now radiology including kidney cancer as it became possible to control the disease thanks to the modern technology when the surgery is not possible.

The effects of radiotherapy between yesterday and today

When we mention radiotherapy before cancer patients, many preconceptions come to their mind topped by the negative effects and the burns ensued. But according to the two doctors explanations, these ideas are the result of the Cobalt technique which was used before and had many negative effects (due to the need of increasing the rays and expanding its area for positive progress in controlling the cancer tumor) such as the impact of radiation on the organ near the tumor like the heart when treating breast cancer. Today all the standards were changed with the new techniques that provided the possibility of focusing the rays in a specific way just to target cancer cells without affecting the nearby healthy cells. Therefore the patient should not have any preconceived ideas but must trust the radiology treatment that has evolved and become more effective in anti-cancer tumors.

Evolution of the techniques

Mount Lebanon Hospital is considered one of the first local hospitals which brought in radiotherapy techniques, and its radiology department succeeded in self-development and keeping pace with the technology. Today there are 3 linear accelerators in the hospital making it one of the largest radiation treatment centers. These accelerators replaced the Cobalt technique and they are characterized by IMRT / VMAT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) which is considered as a great progress in the radiation field allowing to control the rays intensity, and narrowing the treatment area to focus on the tumor without affecting the healthy tissues or organs nearby, plus shortening the daily session length. As an example of this, the old technique of radiotherapy used for treating the tumor of the salivary gland lead to permanent mouth dryness because of its direct effect on the thyroid, but that is not the case anymore because of the very precise determination of the area under treatment. Thus, this technique helps in protecting the organs surrounding the tumor and alleviates the side effects leading to a better quality of life.

It is worth mentioning that the patients who have already underwent radiotherapy treatment can now benefit from the new techniques to either heal or to relieve the pain, according to their medical case.

Furthermore the hospital is currently expanding this section and is working on equipping it with the best techniques such as radiation surgery SRS and SBRT which allow minimizing the recovery duration ranging from 1 to 5 sessions.

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