Radiation oncology deals with cancers of the organs, tissues, fluids and blood. Oncology is a field of medical science that deals specifically with the treatment and prevention of cancer. An oncology specialist is typically an oncology doctor. The oncology specialty is derived from the Greek words, which translate literally to “cancer” and “group” or “struggle” (compare with other branches of dermatology such as allergy and paediatrics).
Today, many oncology specialties are opening up because of advances in medicine. As such, specialists are popping up left and right with cancer research. Surgical oncology focuses on treating diseases, disorders, and conditions using surgical procedures.
There are three main types of radiation oncology treatments, with each having its risks and benefits. The treatment types include brachytherapy (radiation of the breast), radiation therapy, palliative therapy, and radiation beam therapy.
Radiation Oncology Specialty
Surgical oncology can be broadly categorized into two fields: oncology surgery and cancer surgery. Surgical oncology surgery deals specifically with cancers. Oncology cancer surgery deals primarily with malignant tumours, though it also deals with benign tumours that are not malignant.
Some surgical oncology specialist studies radiation therapy Board-certified oncology specialists must meet and maintain specific standards set by the Medical Oncology Board. To obtain board certification, oncologists must complete a 12-month residency program, the majority of which is located in a hospital or other medical setting.
After completion of the residency program, oncology specialists must complete a national board-certified exam that is based on the current diagnostic procedures and outcomes in oncology. Oncology focuses on treating malignancies that originate from the cancerous process, as well as non-cancerous tumours that occur within the body.
While all three main cancer types
- Hodgkin’s disease
Can be addressed through the use of surgical and non-surgical treatments, oncology specialists also focus their attention on dealing with other types of cancers. These include
- Cancers of the bone and muscular system
- Skin and connective tissue
- Stomach and oesophagal cancer
- Lung and Colorectal cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Kidney and liver cancer
- Head and neck cancer
- Blood and lymph cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Throat cancer
Oncology specialists are also trained to deal with non-cancerous tumours that have arisen within the patient’s body, as well as symptoms of those cancers. Oncology focuses on four key areas of treatment
- Diagnosis and staging
The first two sections require pre-screening, which is the process of raising the alarm about an increased risk of cancer for an individual. Staging is focused on the identification, diagnosis and staging of cancers. Rehabilitation is the care of patients after surgery or other procedures, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Surgical Oncology Specialty
Surgical oncology specialists perform different types of procedures that involve the removal of diseased cells or tissues, either to remove them entirely or prevent them from multiplying. Some surgeries affect the spread of the cancer cells or tissues, while others attempt to kill the cancer cells on the outer membrane of the tumour.
Cancerous growths are categorized into two groups
- Those that grow below the skin’s surface
- Those that grow through the skin and into the bloodstream
Surgical oncologists also perform imaging tests to detect these two types of growths, as well as to spot any lumps or swelling that may be indicative of a possible internal problem. A chest x-ray may be ordered to check for abnormalities on the lung’s lining, while an abdominal ultrasound is used to view the abdomen and nearby organs.
Doctors who specialize in oncology are often at the forefront of cancer research
They are responsible for finding methods of treating various types of cancers. Surgical oncology involves several subspecialties, including Mohs surgery or mammography, as well as surgery, radiation oncology, histology and stem cell transplantation.
In Mohs surgery, surgeons remove tumours via surgical methods. This subspecialty involves the use of various surgical techniques and radiation to help control the spread of the disease. Radiation oncology specialities are responsible for using diagnostic equipment to examine tumours and treat cancerous cells with radiation.
In contrast to chemotherapy, this treatment does not employ drugs to directly combat cancer but destroys abnormal cells by introducing chemicals into the body. These methods are highly effective but can be harmful to healthy cells if they overdose. Doctors who specialize in oncology specialities are trained to administer both methods safely and efficiently.
Radiation Oncology Procedures
Radiation oncology can be used in many different ways. Brachytherapy is usually used for localized prostate cancer treatment, often with radioactivity therapy. Radioactive iodine is injected into the prostate, where it kills cancer cells. Brachytherapy usually requires repeated sessions lasting months.
Radiation therapy is also used to kill cancerous tumours outside the body
Such as those found in the bones, lungs and lymph nodes. It has been effective in several cases. Palliative therapy, often called radiation oncology palliative therapy, is used to treat cancer through symptoms. This form of therapy is used to alleviate symptoms of various forms of cancer.
The most common symptom is pain. Radiation is often administered directly to the affected area to reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
Radiation beam therapy is one of the more commonly used forms of radiation oncology
This method is used to treat cancerous tumours that have spread beyond the area of surgery. In this method, a high energy beam of radiation is used to target cancerous growth. Sometimes, the radiation beam is combined with laser therapy to further kill the disease. The radiation beam may also be directed at a normal part of the body, such as the breast, to relieve pain.
Radiotherapy is used to treat mild to moderate non-stage I cancers
A chest x-ray is used to determine whether radiation is needed. Radioactive Iodine (RI) is often used to combat thyroid cancer in the low doses recommended. Radioactive Calcium (RNC) is sometimes used as adjunctive therapy for people with stage I or II cancers.
Ion therapy is used to kill the cancerous tumour by producing large quantities of negative ions. As a result, patients feel little to no pain. The procedure is often done in an outpatient facility and there are very few risks. However, some patients do report a slight discomfort from the procedure. Radioactive drugs are often used before radiation therapy.
Cancer survivors are especially vulnerable during bone marrow transplants and the procedure called bone marrow transplantation. During this procedure, a patient’s stem cells are taken from the bone marrow and stored until needed. These stem cells are then transferred into the diseased part of the patient. The procedure can cause nausea, fever, and vomiting. Patients should stay well hydrated and get plenty of rest.
Radiation Oncology Treatment Process
Radiation oncology is a highly effective treatment option for cancer patients. However, it should be considered with other options such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The benefits of radiation therapy far outweigh its possible side effects. In the end, patients should decide which treatment modalities are right for them based on the type of cancer they have and how aggressive the disease is. They should ask their oncologist about the potential benefits and risks of each therapy modality.
Radiation oncology treatment types
There are many types of radiation therapies available for cancer patients depending on the type of cancer, a patient may choose between
- Ionizing Radiation
- External Beam Radiation
- Internal Radiation
- Targeted Radiation Therapy
- Combination Treatments
Doctors determine the best course of action for each patient according to the severity of cancer, the type of cancer, the age of the patient, the expected number of years cancer will be present, the patient’s quality of life, and the other factors that affect the decision-making process.
One of the main goals of radiation therapy is the prevention or elimination of cancer cells from developing in the body
This can be achieved by destroying the cancerous cells while also preventing the formation of new ones. In some cases, chemotherapy is administered along with radiation therapy for the faster elimination of cancerous cells. Radiation oncology can provide relief for cancer patients suffering from both symptoms and cancer.
Radiation therapy can include both external and internal radiation. External radiation such as x-rays, chemotherapy, and radiation may be used to treat cancer. Internal radiation therapy is used to shrink tumours before surgery.
Although cancer patients may suffer from side effects from radiation therapy, these side effects are generally mild and can be treated or managed by the patient. Patients can choose which side effects they are most comfortable with. Some of the side effects caused by radiation therapy include
- Skin rash
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain
In more severe cases, patients may need to be hospitalized to prevent them from harming themselves. Talking to a doctor is a good way to learn more about possible side effects and how to deal with them if they occur.
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