10 Must-Read Radiotherapy Myths Vs Facts

If you are thinking seriously of undergoing radiotherapy to treat your cancer, first read this article!

How Does Radiotherapy Work? 

It works by utilizing large doses of radiation to kill cancer cells.

Two Main Types of Radiation Therapy:

  • Teletherapy: high energy x-rays are shot usually from a distance of 80 to 100cm.
  • Brachytherapy: radiation is shot from near the target area.

After the list of short- and long-term side effects of radiotherapy towards the end of this article, you may be interested to learn about the real success rate and average cost of radiotherapy. Here are the top 10 must-read myths on radiotherapy:

Myth #1: Radiotherapy Causes Cancer to Spread.

Fact: Radiotherapy both treats and even helps prevent cancer from reoccurring. But, bear in mind that the radiation that lingers in your body for years may still cause cancer to return later.

Myth #2: Radiation Therapy is Absolutely Agonizing!

Fact: Radiotherapy is not so painful. However, you might feel some minor discomfort during the session.

Myth #3: Radiotherapy Will Make Me Radioactively Contagious!

Fact: This is true in some cases. With external radiotherapy radiation is delivered to a very specific area of your body without making you radioactive.

Doctor Robert S. Morse writes insightfully: "Both of these choices (chemotherapy and radiation therapy) cause more cancer, or cause cancer to move to areas where these therapies have destroyed or weakened the cells and tissues. Radiation destroys the oxygen-carrying and utilization factors of a cell." 

Myth #4: Radiotherapy Causes Genes to Mutate and Then They are Passed Down to One's Children

Fact: Although radiation does alter cellular DNA to destroy cancer cells, this kind of alteration only takes place in patients where mutation occurred; the result is thus called nonheritable.

Myth #5: Your Entire Body Receives Radiation During Treatment

Fact: Powerful beams of radiation are mostly localized, or delivered to specific areas of your body which require treatment.

Myth #6: Radiotherapy Puts You at Risk for Developing a Second Tumor

Fact: Cancer survivors have about a 14% greater risk to develop a second tumor as compared to everyone else.

Myth #7: Patients Receive the Same High Quality of Radiotherapy Everywhere

Fact: Radiation therapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment.

Myth #8: Radiotherapy Causes No Adverse Side Effects

Fact: Radiation therapy, depending on the area where radiation is delivered to, may cause the following common short term side effects:

  • Sore skin
  • Darker skin than normal
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Tiredness
  • Hair loss
  • Sickly feeling
  • Eating and drinking problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Stiff jaw, joints, and muscles
  • Sex and fertility issues
  • Tooth decay
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling called lymphedema

Long Term Side Effects:

  • Treated area of your skin will be a bit more sensitive to sunlight
  • Your skin may feel somewhat different to touch
  • Your hair may return in a different texture or color in treated area
  • You may have permanent hair loss in the treated area
  • You may develop red spidery marks on your skin because of little broken blood vessels

Myth #9: Radiotherapy's Success Rate is 100%

Fact: The success rate varies depending which cancer is being treated, from 58% to 93%.

Myth #10: The Cost of Radiotherapy is Extremely Cheap

Fact: The average cost for a course of radiation therapy is about $8600 for breast cancer, $9,000 for lung cancer, and $18,000 for prostate cancer.

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