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Definition of radiotherapy


Radiotherapy is a treatment using high energy ionizing radiation to destroy cancer cells. It is a locoregional treatment: only the area of ​​the body where the tumor is exposed to radiation. This approach is often used in combination with surgery and / or chemotherapy, depending on the nature of the tumor and its evolution.

Radioactivity of patient

The patient treated by radiotherapy is not "radioactive" during treatment, it is not dangerous for the environment.

Operation of external beam radiotherapy

External beam radiotherapy uses a device called a "particle accelerator" that emits a beam directed against the body area to be treated. Rays penetrate the skin and enter the body to the tumor.
This technique is now very precise thanks to a fine tuning of the energy and position of the beam, the radiotherapist optimize treatment while minimizing the rays of the neighboring healthy cells.

The first session of radiotherapy, called "centering" or "tracking" sets with millimeter accuracy the treatment area and the position of the patient should adopt at each meeting. If necessary, the experts draw marks on the skin or make a special mask to target the area that will be irradiated in each session.

The number of sessions varies from patient to patient and depends on both the type and size of the tumor but also the clinical context. The radiotherapist calculates the total dose of radiation needed to treat. This dose is then fractionated on a number of sessions that balances efficiency and tolerance. In general, radiotherapy is administered to one session per day for 4-5 consecutive days each week for several weeks.

Risk of radiation

Radiation therapy is not more risky than others even though the media impact of malfunctions recently alerted the public. Care more drastic are taken by radiotherapy to reduce incidents and in particular, to assess the radiation dose delivered to each radiotherapy. Services as independent Nuclear Safety Authority ensure regular checks.

Side effects of radiotherapy

Ionizing radiation does not distinguish between healthy cells and cancer cells. There is therefore a risk of damaging healthy cells near the treated area, which may result in side effects more or less severe.
Most often, irritation of the skin type sunburn, is found in the treated area. To reduce this irritation, it is recommended to limit the scented cosmetics, promote the wearing of non-irritating, use a mild soap. The exhibition area is strongly discouraged in the sun on the duration of treatment. During its development, some fatigue may also occur. It should encourage the patient to adapt his way of life and not overwork during this period.

Side effects may also occur specifically after irradiation of certain areas of the body: when radiotherapy was applied at the mouth, neck or chest, the patient may experience difficulty in swallowing or dry mouth. After irradiation of the abdomen, nausea and / or diarrhea may occur.

Improved radiotherapy techniques

Techniques of high precision have been developed to optimally protect healthy tissue.

Tomotherapy is a technique of guided radiotherapy scanner. It helps to better target areas of cancerous tissue to be irradiated and reduce radiation to healthy organs nearby. This method is very useful for tumors located in complex areas such as ENT. To date, four centers are equipped with a tomotherapy machine.

Proton therapy is a recent technique of radiotherapy which uses hydrogen ions (or protons) emitted by specific accelerators called cyclotrons. Their use is reserved for tumors located in areas of treatment very difficult as the eye, spinal cord, brain region.

Hadrontherapy implements carbon particles of high energy. Its advantage is to target tumors located deep within the body. In addition, more energetic than protons, they reduce the duration of irradiation of the tumor and can thus limit the risk to surrounding tissues. This new technique is currently available in two centers.

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