Table of Contents
Radiation therapy relies on high-energy rays to terminate cancer cells. Medical professionals first learned that they could utilize radiation (x-rays) to help discover what was inside of the human body. Shortly after, medical professionals learned that these rays could be utilized to treat disease too. These rays are aimed in a focused manner at tumors for short periods and cause injuries to cancer cells. This method prevents cancer cells from subsequently growing and dividing. This in turn terminates the cells and either Shortly afterward, medical professionals found out that the same rays could be utilized to combat diseases including cancer as well. These rays are aimed at tumors for short periods and result in injuries to the cancer cells.
The chemical stops cells from further dividing and growing, which then kills the cells and either slows down or stops the interaction. This then terminates the cells and either slows down or stops tumor growth.
Normal cells in the area receiving treatment are also impacted by radiation but are often more able to recover or be replaced by other cells so that you do not end up experiencing any permanent side effects. Much like with chemotherapy, radiation focuses on the more rapidly dividing cells so that based on where radiation is targeted, similar side effects like those from chemotherapy might be felt.
One critical part of radiation therapy is that a limited amount can be given to a specific area as the impact on normal tissue adds. Each organ including the brain, bones, liver, lungs, kidneys and spinal cord has a distinct threshold of radiation to which they can be exposed following which permanent damage occurs to the organs and they might never recover. The bones can withstand much greater radiation than the lungs. As a result, how much can be given to the chest is limited by the potential for lung damage. This can complicate how a mass is treated in a person who previously lost a lung due to surgical treatment of an earlier cancer and for whom a new disease is now noted or in the remaining healthy lung.
What Are The Types of Waves?
Electromagnetic radiation constitutes a wave of photons, which are the base particles for a certain type of radiation. A photon is a bundle of light that is always in movement. The energy amount carried by a photon makes it act like a particle and wave. This is referred to as the duality of wave particles. Electromagnetic radiation travels through emptiness, which is different from other waves which need mediums through which to move. All types of electromagnetic radiation exist on the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), which includes everything from the lowest to highest energy waves. Consider the following ranking of EMS:
- The longest type of wavelength featured in the EMS is radio. These waves carry sound to various objects including cell phones. These waves are invisible and cannot be seen by the naked eye.
- Another type of invisible wave, microwaves are utilized to warm our food. Telecommunication satellites also utilize microwaves to carry voice signals through telephones. Other microwaves are utilized as radar. The universe has low-level microwave radiation as well.
- Infrared is situated between what can and cannot be seen on the EMS. Remote controls often utilize infrared light to switch channels. Infrared rays can be felt from the sun’s heat too.
- The only section of the EMS where a person can are visible waves. We notice different kinds of wavelengths in the EMS as what is better known as the rainbow.
- Ultraviolet waves can lead to sunburns. While we humans can’t see UV rays, other living things can. The layer of ozone keeps out the majority of UV rays, but as the layer depletes to the utilization of chlorofluorocarbons, the ozone layer protects less.
- X-rays. X-rays are light waves of high energy that are most commonly used in doctor’s offices. X-rays also occur naturally in space.
- Gamma Rays. Gamma rays involve the biggest amount of energy and shortest wavelength across the EMS. These rays are the result of nuclear explosions and radioactive atoms.
Non-Ionizing and Ionizing Radiation
Radiation is divided based on the presence of ionization. On the EMS, the divide occurs between infrared and ultraviolet.
Ionizing radiation exists in several types: non-ionizing radiation is a low-energy radiation that is without the energy to ionize either atoms or molecules. Non-ionizing radiation is located at the end of the electromagnetic sphere. Non-ionizing radiation sources include microwaves, radios, power lines, and visible light. Even though it is viewed as less dangerous than ionized radiation, over-exposure to non-ionizing radiation can lead to health issues.
Low-frequency radiation refers to the radiation produced by things like electrical wiring and power lines. Health issues are connected with magnetic field exposure close to power lines and are controversial. Low-frequency radiation surrounds us daily, but hazardous exposure is influenced by the strength of the low-frequency radiation in addition to the duration and distance of the exposure. Research on low-frequency radiation is focused on both cancers as well as other reproductive issues. No “hard-line” exists between low-frequency radiation and illness. Studies, however, have displayed some preliminary connections.
Microwave and radiation frequency most routinely comes from objects like cell phones, microwave ovens, radios, and television. Both radiation frequency and microwaves can disrupt hearing aids, pacemakers, and defibrillators. As a result, people should take appropriate precautions around this equipment. In the last few years, concerns have been raised about cell phone radiation.
Similar to non-ionizing radiation, ionizing radiation is energy in the form of either particles or waves. Ionizing radiation is so high in energy that it can deconstruct chemical bonds and change (or ionize) an atom that interacts with it. At lower energy, ionizing radiation can remove electrons. At higher energy, ionizing radiation can destroy an atom’s nucleus.
Ionizing radiation is produced from radioactive material that is both natural and man-made. Radon is a natural source of ionizing radiation and is found underground, while x-rays are an example of man-made ionizing radiation. The three types of ionizing radiation include alpha particles, beta particles, and rays. Alpha particles are made up of protons and neutrons, are large, and can only travel a short distance, and inhaling or ingesting these particles can be very dangerous. Beta particles are fast-moving electrons that penetrate not just alpha particles. Beta particles can be halted or slowed down by clothing or certain substances like aluminum. Gamma rays are electromagnetic radiation that emits ionizing radiation due to high energy. X-rays are similar to gamma rays but share different origins. While gamma rays arise from inside an atom’s nucleus, X-rays originate from events that occur outside the nucleus.
Over-exposure to ionizing radiation can result in the mutation of a person’s genes, which can lead to various serious conditions including birth defects, burns, radiation sickness, or a raised cancer risk.
Radiation impacts your body by leaving energy in the tissues of your body, which can lead to cell damage. In some situations, this won’t have any effect. In other situations, cells can be abnormal and sometimes even malignant. The severity of the change depends on both the duration and strength of the exposure. In the unfortunate rare situation, a large degree of radiation exposure can occur in a short period.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends several important guidelines if a person is around too much radiation. Many of these guidelines are also followed by people who routinely work at radiation treatment facilities.
- Get out of the area where the radiation is quick.
- Wash all exposed parts of your body.
- Place your clothing in a plastic bag or away from others.
Does Radiation Result in Cancer?
Studies have long shown that radiation has the potential to increase the risk a person will get another cancer. This is one of the complications that medical professionals must consider when it comes to weighing the advantages and risks of each treatment. In most cases, the risk of a second cancer due to these treatments is small and is greatly outweighed by the direct advantage of treating cancer. The risks, however, are not non-existent. This is why each parent should decide what cancer treatment strategy is appropriate for them. The risk varies based on where the radiation treatment is in the body. If your team of medical professionals recommends radiation treatment, they likely believe that the benefits of radiation will outweigh the risks. It’s still your decision to make about what type of care would be best.
Knowing what you do about the benefits and risks can help ensure that you make the appropriate decision about radiation therapy.
Does Radiation Impact Fertility Or Pregnancy?
Females must do everything possible to avoid becoming pregnant while receiving radiation. This is because radiation has the potential to seriously harm the growing baby. If a chance exists that you might become pregnant while taking radiology, you should not hesitate to speak to your oncologist to learn about birth control options.
If you either are or think you might be pregnant, you should promptly let your physician know. If the area receiving radiation in your body includes your ovaries, the possibility exists that the radiation dosage can lead to the ovaries no longer working and you would no longer be able to have children.
It’s a wise idea to know the risk in advance of receiving radiation therapy. If you are considering radiation therapy that would impact the ovaries, you should speak to your physician about this risk in advance of the procedure.
Not much is known about radiation’s impact on children conceived by men who were receiving radiation treatment. Due to this, medical doctors often suggest that men avoid getting a woman pregnant during or immediately after treatment.
If a person’s testicles receive radiation, the possibility exists that the radiation dosage can result in sterility, which would leave a person unable to have children. It’s a good idea to understand the risk of this possibility before receiving radiation therapy. No research exists about how the sperm are exposed to radiation and how this ends up impacting future children. If you are considering radiation therapy that will impact the testicles, you should consider speaking with your medical provider about how this could impact your ability to end up having children.
Radiation Helps to Treat Cancer
Radiation refers to the energy carried by either waves or a particle stream. Radiation functions by damaging the genes (DNA) found in cells. Genes influence how cells grow and divide. When radiation harms the genes of cancer cells, they are left unable to grow and can no longer divide. As time passes, cells die, which means that radiation can be used to kill cancer cells as well as substantially reduce the size of tumors.
To appreciate how radiation functions to kill cancer, a good starting point is learning about a cell’s normal life cycle. Cells have five phases, including one phase in which the cell splits in half. This division into two cells is referred to as mitosis.
The five-phase life of a cell is referred to as cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK). Because CDK is critical to normal cell division, the process relies on various control mechanisms. The cell stages include:
Go. Cells during this stage rest because they’re not dividing and doing their normal work in the body. Cells spend the majority of their time in this stage where they perform daily tasks and neither prepare to divide nor divide. Based on the type of cell, the stage can last just a few hours or even many years. When a cell receives a signal to
divide, the cell moves into G1.
G1. In this process, RNA and proteins are produced for dividing. The cell during this phase receives information that decides both if and when the cell will enter its next phase. A cell during G1 also produces more protein to begin to divide. The RNA required to duplicate DNA is also produced during this phase, which lasts approximately 18 to 30
- In this phase, synthesis occurs and DNA is produced for new cells. During this phase, Chromosomes containing DNA are copied so both the new cells have identical DNA. The S phase lasts approximately 18 to 20 hours.
G2. An apparatus for mitosis is constructed during this stage. This phase occurs shortly before the cell divides in half. G2 lasts anywhere from 2 to 10 hours.
Mitosis. During this phase, the cell divides in half. Mitosis only lasts between 30 to 60 minutes.
The cell cycle phase is critical to understand in appreciating the role of radiation because radiation kills cells that are actively dividing. Radiation does not work very quickly on cells that are resting in the G stages or dividing less frequently. The amount as well as the type of radiation that reaches the cell as well as the speed of cell growth impact both whether and how quickly the cell dies or is damaged.
The term, “radiosensitivity”, describes how likely cells are to be damaged by radiation. Cancer cells often divide quickly in what is described as an “out of control” manner.
Radiation therapy terminates dividing cancer cells but also impacts dividing normal tissue cells. The damage caused to normal cells results in undesirable side effects. Radiation therapy always involves a balance between the destruction of cancer cells and minimizing the damage caused to normal cells.
Radiation does not always immediately terminate normal or cancer cells. Instead, it sometimes takes days or weeks after treatment has begun. Additionally, cells might keep dying months after radiation treatment has stopped. Tissues that grow quickly including bone marrow and intestinal linings are often immediately impacted Often, brain, breast, bone, and nerve tissue effects are not noticeable until some time later. For this reason, radiation treatment can result in side effects that might not be noticeable until after treatment has ended.
Radiation and Second Cancers
One of the most common questions that people ask about radiation is whether it has the potential to cause second cancer. The connection between radiation and cancer was confirmed years ago following studies about the survivors of the atomic blasts in Japan as well the exposure of workers in certain jobs to radiation, and lastly details about patients who were treated with radiation to treat cancer and other illnesses.
Some past cases of leukemia are connected to previous radiation exposure. Many cases develop within a few years of exposure with the risk of illness the highest in the range between 5 to 9 years after exposure. The risk of illness then slowly declines. Other types of cancer that develop after radiation exposure have been discovered to take substantially longer to reveal.
Most cancers are not even visible for at least 10 years following radiation exposures. Some cancers are not diagnosed for 10 years following radiation exposure. Some people are even diagnosed 15 years later.
Radiation therapy strategies have gradually improved over the last couple of decades. Treatment now focuses on cancer more precisely than ever, More is also known now about arranging radiation doses. These techniques are anticipated to reduce the number of secondary cancers that arise from radiation therapy. In general, the risk of second cancers remains low and must be weighed against the advantages of radiation therapy.