New Cancer-Fighting Technique Could Eliminate Side Effects

When we think about cancer treatments, we’re likely to generate mental images of hair loss, muscle wasting and other serious side effects. Researchers have long been on the hunt for effective ways to beat cancer without adding to patients’ distress, but chemo and radiation both often lead to devastating, sometimes even deadly, complications. A new technique could offer all the benefits of traditional radiation treatment with only a fraction of the side effects. We have the details on what this incredible breakthrough could mean for countless cancer patients.


Reducing Radiation Damage

Most forms of radiation therapy involve irradiating tumors in heavy doses, which destroys the cells and shrinks targeted areas. During these treatments, healthy tissue can also become exposed, leaving patients with uncomfortable side effects. Most commonly, radiation recipients experience fatigue and changes to the exposed skin, but they can also develop nausea, swelling, hair loss and other uncomfortable symptoms.

Current treatments include some options that are designed to minimize these effects:

  • Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy uses beams of radiation formed to fit the tumor’s shape, reducing exposure to healthy tissue.
  • Image-guided radiation therapy uses the above technique but relies on pre-treatment imaging to further refine the exposure area.
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy also pinpoints the radiation but has weaker beams in some spots to reduce healthy tissue exposure.
  • Helical-tomotherapy also uses pinpointed beams but from numerous angles to get at the tumor from all sides.
  • Proton beam radiation therapy uses protons, which can be less damaging to the surrounding tissues, whereas most other forms of radiation treatment use highly destructive photons or electrons.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery, or stereotactic body radiation therapy, targets spots with extreme precision and is reserved for areas surrounded by brain matter or other highly vulnerable vital organs.

These options are designed to reduce exposure, but they can still put healthy tissue at risk and trigger side effects. But there's been a breakthrough that we thought was pretty exciting.


FLASH Radiation Therapy

A recent breakthrough called FLASH radiation therapy could offer the benefits of many of the above treatments without adding new symptoms. Designed to reduce the serious side effects of irradiating the brain, this new technique uses broader, single bursts of exposure lasting less than one-tenth of a second rather than longer, more concentrated beams.

Studies on mice have shown this approach doesn’t lead to the same degree of neurocognitive effects many patients experience after having radiation treatments to the brain. The quick pulse is less damaging to healthy cells, but it appears to be just as effective as other treatments at shrinking tumors.

FLASH radiation therapy could change doctors’ entire approach to cancer treatment. This technique is still in the experimental stages, but according to ScienceDaily, the technology has been used to treat lung, intestinal and skin cancers, and already one human subject has been successfully treated using it. If all goes well, radiation cancer therapy could soon be faster, less painful and result in far fewer risks of complications.

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5/4/2021 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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Comments

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Posted by matinaadam
Had the proton & chemo ( cisplatin )for HPV 16. Chemo doc said proton was unproven technology, but it got rid of tumor on base of tongue & lump on neck. Only side effect is reduced but acceptable saliva output. I also lost about 20 pounds of spare tire.
Posted by Eric Klaus
Well I just love that such evolutions are being developed for radiation therapy. Yes , for me back in 1991 it sent me into winter hibernation mode for 9 years. Most folk just never made it long ! 😲

But at least some HOPE has been coming about ! 😊
Posted by Keith Theakston
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