Radiotherapy is not a simple process. It is not as easy as just exposing someone to a field of radiation. And then we’re done!


It is a  complex process, which needs to achieve accuracy to within sub millimeter tolerances, similar to surgery, and treatment machines need to deliver dose to accuracy under 1%, similar to delivery accuracy of chemotherapy.


The treatment target need to be accurately defined, then the radiation treatment plan must be developed and checked for each individual patient. Then the patient will have to come in for multiple treatments. For each treatment the patient will need to be positioned exactly the same for every treatment.


This whole process can be physically taxing for some patients.


Because of this, and some other reasons, radiotherapy may not be suitable treatment option for everyone.  So when would someone need radiotherapy? And when would someone not be suitable for radiotherapy?


When would someone be Suitable for Radiotherapy?


Obviously, you will only be suitable for Radiotherapy if you have cancer or some other sort of disease that can be treated using radiation therapy. There would be absolutely no way any professional would irradiate anyone if there was no benefit to them!


Beyond this there are several other reasons that might mean someone will not be suitable for Radiation therapy.


Are you strong enough?


There may be several reasons why a patient may not be suitable. This could include age, previous health conditions, or have claustrophobia.


To be able to have radical radiation a patient needs to be in a reasonable health condition prior to starting.


Radiation is given in the intent of destroying tumor cells and curing disease- this is known as a Radical Radiation Remedy.  Although destroying the tumour cell is the main goal, the radiation will also damage normal tissue surrounding the tumour.


The damage of the normal tissue can cause side effects, such as fatigue, which patients need to be able to cope with.  If a patient can not cope with the possible side effects they may not be suitable for Radiation therapy.


To minimize these side effects the patient needs to be to be positioned in a  certain way during treatment. If a patient is not in a condition where they can be positioned precisely for each treatment they may not be suitable for radiotherapy either.


Are you Smart Enough?


There are several different types of equipment that can be used to immobilize the patient. A patient that is claustrophobic and needs head and neck radiotherapy may not be suitable as a head mask is needed for the treatment. This can make patients uncomfortable.


If the patient is uncomfortable while wearing the full head mask they are more likely to move during treatment. Or even worse is if they have a panic attack during treatment. This will compromise the accuracy and success rate of the treatment.


This will make some claustrophobic patients unsuitable for radiation therapy.


Repeat patients for radiotherapy may also be unsuitable.  If a patient has already had radiotherapy to a certain area of the body it is generally not advisable to irradiate that area again.


This is because tissues can only tolerate a certain amount of radiation safely. Any radiation over this will not produce sufficient therapeutic benefit to justify giving the patient the radiation.


However, if the cancer appears in another part of the body it is possible to have radiation therapy for this area.


Patients with certain diseases such as vasculitis are also not advised to have radiotherapy. They are extra sensitive to possible side effects of radiation therapy. This may make radiotherapy a less desirable treatment option.


Obviously, if the patient is pregnant they won’t be able to have any radiotherapy. Or, if a patient is not committed to have all the daily scheduled radiation therapy appointments they should not start their treatment. A course of radiation therapy is worthless if not completed.


Radiotherapy is the Best Option


There are situations where radiation therapy may be the best option for a patient.  Mobile patients are well suited for radiation therapy, advanced cancer patients are also well suited.


You do not need to say in Hospital


If a patient is healthy enough they won’t need to stay in hospital during their treatment. They will just have to come in for their daily treatment. Unlike surgery, or chemotherapy, they may need to stay for a period of time in hospital to recover.

The treatment sessions are only around 15 minutes long, although the whole process can takes around an hours a day

This can allow the patient to continue on with their day to day life, and even keep working if they desire.


No surgical Trauma


Surgery can leave some patient with collateral damage or trauma.


Cutting the patient open and removing the tumour can be taxing on some people. Others may not be able to heal as quickly. Since radiotherapy is a non invasive procedure- we don’;t need to cut the patient, it will be more beneficial to have radiotherapy over surgery for these types of patients.


Surgery may not be an Option


Advanced cancer often are inoperable.


Once a cancer has progressed so far that surgery can’t be performed the only options left are radiation therapy and chemotherapy.  Tumours become inoperable when they have invaded too many different tissues and can’t easily be dissected from the healthy tissues.


Other tumours may be inoperable because they lie too close to critical structures such as the spinal cord. These are inoperable because the risks of surgery are too high.


Radiotherapy will be a great option for these patient.


Combine to improve outcomes


A combination of the three treatments may give you better outcomes.


Often radiotherapy and surgery are combined. Surgery will remove the tumour. Radiotherapy will then be used to kill any cancer cells that the surgeon may have left behind. This combination increase the chance of a cure when compared to each of the treatments alone.


Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy may be beneficial together as well. Some patient even receive all three, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery to increase the odds of a cure.


Your treatment plan will be discussed with medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and other specialist doctors to determine the best option for you condition.


Radiotherapy is Painless


Radiation therapy is painless treatment option for cancer or palliative symptoms. There are no knives or needles involved in the process. And you will not feel the treatment when it is being delivered.


Although patients can experience some pain during treatment this is normally associated with muscle pains from having to lie on the treatment table for extended periods of time. Other patients may have pain from the side effects- but the treatment is painless.


The frequency of radiation is too high for our body to feel it.


And remember- Radiotherapy does not make a patient’s radioactive.




Radiotherapy is a necessary treatment for many cancer patient. And there are far more people around the world that need radiotherapy and can’t get access to it .


It can have benefits over surgery, even if it is just a cosmetic one such  as less scarring.  and may have less side effects than chemotherapy such a hair loss- although hair loss is not much of an issue now with modern chemotherapy drugs.


Learn more by checking out these other articles

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