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Radiation Therapy Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered the X-Ray in 1895 Since then the treatment has been used to successfully treat cancer patients The process uses small amounts of very high-energy radiation to destroy the cancerous cells making them unable to reproduce However the x-rays themselves do not cause the damage the x-rays react with the water and other compounds in the cell and make free radicals and peroxides which then react with the DNA In addition to getting rid of the cancer radiation therapy can also be used to alleviate a cancer patients pain There are many different types of radiation therapy all using different sets of equipment and requiring the knowledge of specifically trained professionals Perhaps the most commonly known one is External Beam Therapy External Beam Therapy EBT eliminates the need for needles or instruments entering the body and no radioactivity circulates within your body Working with EBT requires a group effort there are many different people who contribute A radiation oncologist decides where the radiation will be administered as well as the angles at which the beams are directed His goal is to spare as much normal tissue as possible Medical radiation physicists aid in this process and radiation therapists will deliver the actual treatment The patient will usually be treated lying down and the whole treatment takes only about 15-30 minutes EBT is used mostly to treat breast cancer lung cancer and prostate cancer Depending on the type of cancer radiation therapy can have several different side effects In treating breast cancer the most common side effect is a topical reaction Some patients develop itching or dryness on the skin For lung cancer a general fatigue can be expected in the weeks directly following the treatment as well as skin irritation loss of appetite and some hair loss More serious side effects can include radiation pneumonitis inflammation of the lungs and esophagitis inflammation of the tube
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