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Medically reviewed by Tobin C. Hyman, MS, DABR Chief Medical Physicist
Radiation therapy for cancer is delivered in two primary forms: External, in which a large x-ray generator sits outside the patient directing beams into the patient and Internal, where the radiation is placed inside the patient mere millimeters from the tumor or directly inside the tumor. Internal Radiation Therapy is also called Brachytherapy. Roughly translated, it means “short distance therapy” – it’s a short distance between the radiation and the tumor. A small thin tube – called a catheter – is used to deliver radioactive solids to the site of the cancer. Solids can be capsules, seeds, micro-spheres, or ribbons about the size of a grain of rice. Other methods of internally delivering radioactive material to the site of the disease/tumor include ingestion of a pill (ex., for thyroid cancer) or injection/infusion through an IV (ex., for bone cancer).
Medically reviewed by Michael Pavy, MD
Melanie sat at her kitchen table, sipping her coffee, enjoying the birds in the garden. She smiled, recalling the positive prognosis she received after finishing chemotherapy for her breast cancer. “I’m going to phone Mom and tell her,” Melanie thought. Then, she couldn’t remember a phone number she had called thousands of time. “Oh well,” she thought, “I’ll make some lunch.” Yet, struggle as she might, Melanie couldn’t remember the ingredients for her favorite recipe.
Medically reviewed by Gregory Jones, MD
“In many cases, the high mortality rate of lung cancer is related to a late diagnosis,” says McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Gregory Jones. “Other cancers we hear about – colon, breast and prostate – have screening tests. With the new guidelines, maybe we can detect lung cancer earlier.”
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mark Fox
Now – more than ever before – survival is a realistic possibility for cancer patients, thanks to new technology, drugs and therapies. PALLIATIVE CARE. While cancer specialists treat the disease (with survival as the goal), palliative care specialists can treat the patient’s pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression associated with cancer. A study has shown that use of palliative care may even improve a cancer patient’s survival. Unfortunately, not all cancers can be cured. And there may come a point -- no matter how good your cancer doctors, available treatments or even clinical trials – where therapies are no longer controlling the disease.
Medically reviewed by Rommel Lu, MD
Cancer patients often feel tired physically, mentally and emotionally. Not surprising, given the struggle and stress of testing, surgery, radiation therapy and the attack of chemotherapy on cancer cells. “X-rays and lab tests can’t tell us about a cancer patient’s fatigue,” Says McLeod Oncologist Dr. Rommel Lu. “It’s the patients who tell us. They complain of heaviness in arms and legs. They also have trouble concentrating and completing everyday tasks. They might be irritable and take less care in their personal appearance. Knowing more about the problem can help cancer patients deal with their fatigue.”
Medically reviewed by Dr. T. Rhett Spencer
Bulky machines sit in a darkened room. A bed stretches into the inside of the machine. It may buzz or hum. These machines that direct radiation into cancer are one of the most effective ways to kill, control or shrink tumors. External Beam Radiation Therapy, Radiotherapy or Cancer Radiation Therapy uses the large machines to generate high energy, highly targeted x-ray, cobalt or particle beams. The beams are focused to hit the tumors inside the body, disrupting the DNA in the tumor. The goal is to kill the tumor cells so that the body sloughs them off. Treatments are generally painless and the machine doesn’t touch the patient nor does it make the patient radioactive.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Rajesh Bajaj
“How bad is it?” After the doctor says “cancer,” a patient’s mind is flooded with a thousand questions. For most patients – “How bad is it?” – is the most urgent question. “Over the years, a number of different methods have been used to determine the answer to this question,” says McLeod Oncologist Dr. Rajesh Bajaj. “Today, most cancer specialists use the TNM system to determine the stage of the cancer. The TNM system helps the specialists determine the type of treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy) and predict the chances of recovery or recurrence.” At its simplest “T” stands for tumor, “N” stands for lymph nodes and “M” stands for metastasis (cancer that has spread to another part of the body).
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sreenivas Rao
Along with surgery and radiation therapy, chemotherapy – the use of powerful drugs to attack cancer cells – is one of the main treatments available to cancer patients. “Chemotherapy involves using a specific drug or one combination of several of the more than 100 now used, depending on the specific goal of treatment,” says McLeod Oncologist Dr. Sreenivas Rao. “Not only is the specific mix of drugs important, but also the order in which the patient receives the drugs is critical. Sometimes chemo is given alone. Other times, it’s part of the treatment along with surgery or radiation therapy.”
Medically Reviewed by John T. Atkins, MD
Let’s be honest: Smoking causes lung cancer. About 90% of lung cancers are caused by smoking. The more cigarettes you smoke a day and the younger you started smoking, the greater your risk of lung cancer. In South Carolina, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths – accounting for more victims each year than breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer combined.
Patients with childhood acute leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease and testicular cancer all have something in common: Cures for their cancers were developed through clinical trials.
Clinical trials can focus on diagnosis, screening and prevention. However, most of us think of clinical trials in the context of potential new treatments. Patients who exhaust standard treatments in surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy often explore participation in clinical trials, where they can gain access to promising new treatments not generally available elsewhere.
A tidal wave of emotion, fear and confusion.
“When a person hears the word cancer they’re often overwhelmed. Their lives are filled with unfamiliar medical terminology, appointments, tests, and life-or-death decisions about their prognosis,” says McLeod Oncology Navigator Maureen Byrd, RN, BSN. “It’s at this point that the patient may benefit from the support of a nurse or social worker -- someone who understands their disease and can help them navigate through their cancer journey.”
Medically Reviewed by
Gregory Jones, MD
“If the lung cancer is contained at an early stage and the patient has a good heart and lung reserve, removing a section of the lung, as well as dissecting out lymph nodes, is pretty much the standard of care,” says McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgeon Gregory Jones, MD. “Plus, surgeons are pushing ahead with less invasive procedures, including video-assisted platforms and small incisions in places that can spare muscles and nerves.”
Over the years, most people have relied on recommendations from friends and family when choosing a doctor or hospitals. With the rise of the Internet, easily and often accessed by health consumers, ratings and rankings boomed. To be an informed consumer, it’s good to understand what information each rating uses and how it is compiled. Here’s a brief overview.
Organizations compile their ratings with different information, from different sources with different formulas to make the data consumer-friendly. Here are the most common ways in which ratings are generated:
Within a few years of the discovery of X-rays in 1896, cancer patients were being “treated” with radiation therapy. Multiple radiation treatments were often needed, usually combined with surgery. Side effects included hair loss and damage to tissues and organs near the cancer.
Radiotherapy Improves Its Aim
Fatigue, Nausea, Hair Loss…and More. Many Bumps on the Road of Your Cancer Journey
The punch in your belly from a cancer diagnosis is followed by a tidal wave of emotions and questions. How to tell your family, your friends, your boss? Then, come decisions on treatment options. It’s not an easy road to travel. Understanding what to expect can help with your decisions and your journey.