Radiation is a treatment option for those unable to tolerate surgery and for cancers that are recurrent or difficult to entirely remove. Radiation may be used alone or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. A specialized machine is used to direct these rays onto a very specific area. With each treatment, cancer cells are damaged. A few normal cells can also be damaged, but they repair themselves over time. Radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells right away. It takes days or weeks of treatment before cancer cells start to die. Then, cancer cells continue dying for weeks after radiation therapy ends. The treatments are short, painless and are usually given in many doses over several weeks. These advanced radiation techniques are managed by a radiation oncologist in a hospital or radiation treatment center.
Side effects vary depending on the dose required as well as the area of the body being treated. During treatment your skin in the treated area may become red, dry, and tender like sunburn. After the treatment, the skin is thinner and slightly scarred. Extensive cancers when treated with radiation may result in contraction of surrounding tissue. This could caused tightness and deformation of sensitive areas such as nose, eyelids, and ears. Most of the time, however, the cosmetic appearance after radiation is excellent. Radiation does create a risk of secondary cancers after 10-15 years and is , therefore, used sparingly in younger patients.