What is Radiation Oncology? Insights on its Types, Side Effects, Covid-19 Impact, and Future Scope
Radiation oncology is a type of medical treatment for all types of cancer. High energy rays such as x-rays are utilized for radiation oncology. Hair loss, fatigue, nausea, and hormonal changes are some of the side effects of radiation oncology remedies.
Cancer, one of the dangerous forms of diseases goes by many names such as neoplasm and malignant tumor. This disease can activate in any part of a tissue or organ where cells start to grow abnormally without any control and spread throughout the body. According to WHO (World Health Organization), cancer is considered to be the second cause of death across the globe and was accounted for nearly 9.6 million deaths in 2018.
Furthermore, prostate, lung, colorectal, liver, and stomach are the most common types of cancer in men, while breast, lung, colorectal, thyroid, and cervical are typically found among women. Apart from this, cancer treatments costs a fortune and can completely drain out one’s savings. For example, cancer treatment expenses in India vary from $3200 to $8000, depending upon type and cancer stage. There are various treatments for this disease such as chemotherapy, surgery, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and radiation oncology. This blog will specifically highlight radiation oncology treatment.
What is Radiation Oncology?
Radiation oncology, also known as radiotherapy or radiation therapy, is a type of medical treatment for cancer. This treatment technique uses waves of energy such as heat or light to cure tumors or cancer and the form of radiation preferred is known as ionizing radiation. High energy rays such as x-rays are also utilized for radiation oncology and these rays are released via linear accelerator devices. X-rays are invisible, painless, and favored for healing several types of cancers.
The goal of radiation oncology remedies is to control the growth of cancer, cure the disease, and reduce its symptoms like pain. As per the statistics posted on targetingcancer.com.au, the cure rate for cancer through radiation oncology diagnosis is estimated to be around 40% only. Further, radiation breaks up the DNA of the cancerous cells, disrupts the growth of the disease, and kills cancer cells. Radiation oncology is anticipated to be effective than chemotherapy or any other kind of cancer treatment, thus making this treatment popular and boosting its demand in the market. As per a new report by Research Dive, the global radiation oncology market is predicted to reach $10,679.7 million by 2027.
What are the Types of Radiation Oncology?
There are mainly two types of radiation oncology- external beam radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy.
1.External Beam Radiation Therapy
External beam radiation therapy is the most common type of treatment used for cancer. This involves the usage of an external machine that transmits a beam of radiation to the targeted cells. In this method, numerous high beams of x-rays that are generated by a linear accelerator device are dispatched on the tumor. X-rays are capable of destroying cancerous cells without damaging other vital organs in the surrounding area. There are several sub-types of external beam radiation therapy and the doctor recommends any of these based on the type of cancer and part of the body that needs to be treated. The sub-divisions of external beam radiation therapy are as follows:
- Conformal radiotherapy
- Volumetric-modulated arc radiotherapy (VMAT)
- Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT)
- Image-guided radiotherapy
- Stereotactic radiotherapy
- 4D radiotherapy
- Total body irradiation (TBI)
- Proton beam therapy
- Intraoperative radiotherapy
2. Internal Radiation Therapy
Internal radiation therapy is also called seed implantation or brachytherapy, in which a high dose of radiation is released directly on the tumor and surrounding cells are spared. Furthermore, an oncologist implants radioactive material at the site of cancer, either permanently or temporarily. The radioactive materials such as photons or also known as seeds slowly spread radiation around cancer for a few months. Within a year, the radiation completely deteriorates and the seeds remain inside the body for the rest of the life. Apart from this, internal radiation therapy is further sub-divided into the following types based on the type of cancer.
- Accelerated partial breast radiation therapy
- Head and neck radiation therapy
- Cervical, vaginal, and endometrial cancer radiation therapy
- Lung cancer therapy
- Sarcoma therapy
- Prostate therapy (seed implant)
Side Effects of Radiation Oncology Method
Side effects of radiation oncology depend on the persons’ overall health, the body part that is receiving the treatment, and doses & type of radiation. There are either short or long-term side effects of this treatment procedure.
Short term side effects include the following:
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Skin changes (texture or spot appearance)
Long term side effects are as follows:
- Heart or lung issues due to chest radiation
- Thyroid issues and hormonal changes due to neck radiation
- Hormonal changes and early menopause due to pelvic area radiation
How has Covid-19 Pandemic Affected the Radiation Oncology Market?
The radiation oncology market is witnessing growth during the Covid-19 outbreak due to investments in the healthcare sector by all the countries across the globe. Moreover, the key players of the market are constantly developing new strategies such as partnerships and product launches to enhance their market share. For example, in December 2020, Varian, a provider of radiation oncology software & treatment, partnered with Yonsei Cancer Center to promote research and development in the field of oncology & radiation therapy.
Future Scope of Radiation Oncology
Radiation oncology is one of the efficient treatments for cancer and due to technological advances, there are higher cure rates, faster treatment procedures, and fewer side effects. Furthermore, novel technology offers tumor tracking ability and motion management systems that accurately target radiation beams to the cancer cells. These types of developments are likely to leave a significant impact on radiation oncology treatment.
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