So, just what is Radiation Therapy and what impact will it really have on your skin? First things first, let’s take an in-depth look at exactly what radiation therapy is and how it relates to your body’s normal function.
Radiation Therapy (RT) refers to using ionizing radiation as a form of cancer treatment to effectively control and minimise malignant cells. This is done by damaging the DNA of these cells in order to reduce the reproduction. Where many people get confused is in the two different forms of radiation: non-ionizing and ionizing. Simply put, non-ionizing radiation includes light, sound, radio waves, and waves, including microwave ovens. On the other hand, ionizing radiation has enough energy to ionize atoms, meaning to remove an electron from an atom or molecule, leading to cell damage and destruction, which in some cases is cancer. When used in a controlled setting, ionizing radiation can be utilised to destroy cancer cells, while causing minimal damage to healthy tissues.
As such, radiation therapy is used to kill cells through direct and indirect mechanisms of action. Direct damage refers to damaging the DNA within a cell, which occurs when a radiation beam passes through the cell’s nucleus. On the other hand, indirect damage occurs when the radiation beam passes through the cytoplasm to create free radicals that, in turn, destroy the DNA. Indirect damage of cells is more common, because, with regard to direct damage, when cancer cell DNA is destroyed, cellular functions are disrupted, including the ability to divide or replicate, ultimately leading to cell death.
Be strong / Be kind / Be yourself
Radiation therapy has the ability to cure some forms of cancer, either alone or combined with other treatment types.
Radiation therapy has the ability to stunt the growth or eliminate spreading of certain types of cancer.
Radio therapy can be used alongside other primary treatment types to assist in the effectiveness of treatment, either before or after other treatments.
Under circumstances whereby cure is not possible, radiation therapy can be used to reduce the symptoms of cancer and prolong the quality of life.
Radiation Therapy delivery:
For certain cancer treatment types, ionizing radiation is conducted in the form of external beam radiation. Simply put, a machine applies radiation over the surface level of the skin.
All external beam radiation therapies (EBRT) use high-energy radiation to target and kill tumours by either causing irreparable DNA damage within the cancer cells or by disrupting the vascular supply to the growing tumour. The most common radiation technique uses high-energy x-rays, which deposit a radiation dose in a path from the body surface to the location of the tumour. In most cases the x-ray beam will continue to travel through the tumour without stopping and continue to deposit the remaining radiation energy into healthy tissues and organs beyond the tumour. Any remaining radiation energy deposited beyond the intended target is called an “exit dose”.
Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) does not damage healthy tissues beyond the tumour, as proton beams stop precisely at the back edge of the tumour.
Body Mold or Head Mask
During external beam radiation therapy, a body or face mould may be required to assist the cessation of movement during the delivery of treatment.
For the treatment of cancer types that do not benefit from external beam radiation therapy, ionizing radiation is administered internally in the form of internal beam radiation, whereby, as the name suggest, the radiation is put internally in the body. This is more commonly known as brachytherapy.
Brachytherapy is the temporary or permanent placement of radioactive sources within, or near, a tumour (subdermally). Also known as internal radio therapy or implant therapy, the advantage of this form of treatment is that it can deliver a high dose of radiation to a specific tumour area, with a rapid falloff in dosage to adjacent normal tissues.
Permanent (low dose rate = LDR) Brachytherapy: Traditionally, this has been done through low-dose permanent radioactive seeds implanted into the cancerous and/or surrounding tissue. The seeds used for the implant are smaller than a grain of rice. The seed capsule itself is made from titanium, and the radioactive isotope is sealed in small beads that are placed inside the capsule.
Temporary (high dose rate = HDR) Brachytherapy: A new option is the placement of temporary sources of radiation, where higher doses may be utilised. Cancers of the breast, vagina, cervix, prostate, and bronchus are the most common sites for temporary brachytherapy. Thin catheters are first placed in the tumour. The catheters are then connected to an HDR after loader. A computer will control how long the pellet stays in each catheter (the dwell time), and at which point of the catheter it should pause to release radiation. After a series of treatments, the catheters are removed, and at which point, there are no radioactive seeds left in the body.
MammoSite Radiation Therapy System (RTS): This is a tumour site-specific radiation therapy system for breast cancer. The device is comprised of a balloon catheter that internally administers the prescribed dose of radiation to targeted breast tissue in a 1-5 day course of therapy.
What does this mean for your skin?
85% of radiation patients experience moderate to severe skin symptoms, according to the journal of [i]Current Oncology. The unfortunate reality of radiation therapy is that it can leave your skin looking and feeling burned—with redness, pain, itching, blistering, and even open wounds. Therefore, taking care of your skin during and after radiation treatment is very important. Skin changes can be one of the primary side effects of radiation therapy.
At My Skin Spa, all skincare services offered are backed by science. I don’t believe in guesswork and I certainly won’t leave anything to chance when it comes to protecting your body’s largest organ, your skin. As a radiation therapy skin management specialist in Raby Bay, I extent an invitation for a complimentary Clinical Skin Assessment. This service is offered to all of my oncology and chronologically ill clients, and includes the following:
You don’t have to settle for compromised skin, there is an answer. I look forward to supporting you towards that goal. For the very best radiation therapy skin management in Raby Bay and the wider Brisbane region, look no further than My Skin Spa. To find out more about how I can assist you on your journey back to good health, please call me today on 0438 735 990 or simply book an appointment online today.
[i] Journal of Current Oncology. Prophylaxis and management of acute radiation-induced skin reactions: a systematic review of the literature. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913836/
Be strong / Be kind / Be yourself