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Advances in radiation therapy

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Recent advances have resulted in more precise and effective treatments with fewer side effects

Radiation therapy (or radiotherapy) and surgery are the two main treatments available for curing solid tumour malignancies. Radiation therapy uses high-energy ionising radiation to destroy the DNA of cancer cells, and can be used to cure cancers, either alone or in conjunction with surgery or chemotherapy. According to the available evidence, one in two patients with cancer in Australia would benefit from receiving radiation therapy as part of their treatment.1 In cases of incurable disease, radiotherapy relieves distressing symptoms, such as pain, in two of three patients.

Radiation therapy is an effective, safe cancer treatment that is also cost-efficient. Data analysis by Medicare and the federal Department of Health indicate that less than 9 cents of each dollar spent on cancer care in Australia is for radiation therapy.2 In the past decade, major technological advances have transformed the field, allowing patients to be treated with greater precision than ever before.

New modalities

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is an external-beam radiation treatment that allows the operator to closely conform the radiation dose to the shape of the tumour by modulating the intensity of the radiation beam.3