Radiation therapy is common in treatment for cancerous tumors in their early stages of development. The action of the radiation beam focused on a tumor is effective in the locality of the specific tumor alone. The radiation kills cancerous cells in the specific area (Verville 2).
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If the tumor or cancerous cells have spread to other parts of the body, they may not be killed by the radiation therapy. For this reason, radiation treatment for any cancerous cells is only effective as a cure when all the cancerous cells are located in one area of the body. This is common for most cases of testicular cancer, which affects men.
Histology Of Testicular Cancer
Most testicular cancers are a result of cancerous germ cells. Majority of cases of testicular cancer feature the development of seminomous testicular cancer (Verville 4). It is easy to treat this type of cancer using radiation therapy. This therapy is used as one of the many therapies that are used to treat the cancer.
Radiation therapy is a more effective therapy for seminomous testicular cancer than for non-seminomatous cancer. The cancerous cells in seminomous testicular cancer are easily eliminated, while the cells in non-seminomatous cancer are not easily killed by radiation doses used for cancer treatment (Verville 7).
The manner in which radiation is used to treat testicular cancer depends on the level of development of the cancerous tissue. If the cancer is localized in the testes, it is known as stage-one seminoma. This type of cancer can be treated with removal of the testes together with the cancerous tissue.
A mild dose of radiation is then used to kill any cancerous cells that may have spread from the locality of the testes to the tissue around and within the pelvis. Radiation may not be required for treatment of most stage-one seminomas.
However, radiation therapy is used as a precaution since there is a small but definite possibility of presence of cancerous cells in the adjacent tissue. Surgical removal of the testes and the cancerous tissue is usually a sufficient cure for this type of cancer when it is accompanied by close post-operation monitoring (Verville 8).
The post-operation surveillance of the patient may continue for a range of a few years to a decade. In addition, the intensity of examination of the patient and the frequency with which examination is performed decrease with time. Radiation therapy is normally applied to the tissue in the para-aortic region (Verville 15). However, to reduce the radiation effect, radiation therapy is sometimes applied to the tissue within pelvic regions alone.
When the cancerous cells have spread to the tissue surrounding the testes, the cancer is known as stage-two seminoma. At this stage, the cancer may have spread to the tissue in the pelvis and the lymph nodes. However, the cancer is considered a stage-two-B seminoma only when the considerable cancerous tissue has grown in the lymph nodes and a stage-two-A seminoma when a small amount of cancerous tissue has grown in the lymph nodes.
The stage one-A cancer is easier to treat with radiation and surgery (Verville 25). The exposure to radiation during this treatment is greater than the exposure used for treatment of a stage-one seminoma. On the other hand, patients with stage-two-B seminoma have lower chances of survival. Less than ninety-five percent of the patients survive this type of cancer when treated with radiation alone.
Cancerous tissue usually develops in other parts of the body after treatment with radiation therapy. In most cases, chemotherapy is used instead of radiation. Further treatment with radiation therapy may be required if the cancer persists after treatment with chemotherapy. However, only a small number of patients fail to heal after undergoing chemotherapy (Verville 31).
When the cancer spreads to other tissue in other parts of the body other than the pelvic region, it is known as a stage-three seminoma. Radiation therapy alone is not effective for this type of cancer. This is because the cancerous cells are not localized in the testes. Application of radiation therapy in all the affected parts of the body could be lethal due the high dose of radiation. It is also difficult to establish the expected effectiveness of such treatment. Thus, chemotherapy is primarily used for treatment of stage-three seminoma (Verville 37). Radiation may be applied in the localities that develop cancerous tissue.
Non-Seminomatous Testicular Cancer
Non-seminomatous testicular cancer exhibits an inherent variation of the cancerous cells in all patients. In addition, the cancerous cells are difficult to kill using radiation therapy. Thus, radiation therapy is not used as a primary method of treatment of this cancer (Verville 19).
Radiation Therapy And Procedure
The kind of radiation used to kill the cancer cells is usually modified to minimize its effect on non-cancerous cells. The radiation beam is usually focused on the affected area and it penetrates normal tissue with little side effect. However, the radiation beam kills the cancerous cells, which may be embedded deep in the body.
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The technology used to deliver the radiation has significantly improved since it was first used. Modern equipment is able to focus the radiation beams on specific tissue with high precision. Although the radiation passes through skin and other tissue, burns are not likely to occur as they usually did before development of modern equipment (Washington & Leaver 102).
The oncologist performing the radiation therapy and the patient are required to go through a rehearsal of the procedure. The oncologist determines the areas that require radiation therapy. Radiation therapy requires careful planning and calculation since the dose of radiation to be used in radiation therapy is usually precise. An examination of the patient’s skeleton is necessary to assess whether the bones are likely to obstruct radiation from the reaching the targeted area.
The position of other organs is also determined to aid calculation of the amount of radiation required to penetrate all tissue. Temporary and permanent marks are made on the body of the patient to aid the execution of radiation therapy during the treatment session. X-ray pictures are necessary to enable the technologist visualize the area to be treated properly (Washington & Leaver 29).
A verification of the plans and procedures is necessary before the actual radiation therapy is performed. A linear accelerator is used to produce and focus the radiation beams on the affected tissue. Multiple radiation treatments are necessary for effective radiation therapy.
The radiation procedure is performed every day for about a month. However, the number of treatment cycles may vary depending on the complexity of the procedure and the response of the patient to the treatment (Washington & Leaver 61). Radiation therapy is usually painless and side effects are barely noticeable to the patient. Patients are able to continue using their normal work schedule and adhere to a routine with mild physical stress.
Patients’ Response and Side Effects
The effect of radiation therapy in a patient depends on each individual. While some patients may report a certain degree of discomfort while subjected to certain high doses of radiation, others may not. There are treatments for the side effects that may be experienced by the patient (Washington & Leaver 51). Those patients who undergo radiation therapy involving treatment of the tissue in the pelvic region experience bowel discomfort.
Infertility is also a common side effect arising from radiation therapy. In cases where the testes are still functional, they may be shielded from radiation to minimize damage to the tissue. The immune system of the patient may also be affected by radiation therapy. White blood cells are reduced by intense radiation therapy (Washington & Leaver 46). Radiation has adverse effects on the bone marrow, which is responsible for production of the white blood cells.
However, these side effects are temporary, and will only persist for a short while after completion of radiation therapy. Due to drastic changes in composition of blood, it is necessary to monitor the effect of radiation therapy on blood count (Kasper & BarCharts 83). Reports of fatigue and general discomfort from the patient are signs that the composition of blood is getting affected beyond comfortable levels.
Special Cases of Radiation Therapy Treatment
Radiation therapy is highly effective in treating most cases of testicular cancer. However, there are chances of development of complications after radiation therapy. The probability of these complications occurring is small. Moreover, radiation therapy may cause new type of cancers in the patient.
The chances of occurrence of a new type of cancer in a patient after undergoing radiation therapy are few. Exposure to high doses of radiation, particularly to the non-cancerous tissue is the major cause of development of other cancers in the patient. Other therapeutic procedures such as chemotherapy and surgery may amplify the side effects caused by radiation therapy (Kasper & BarCharts 81).
Although the effectiveness of radiation therapy varies with every patient, it is useful in treatment of almost all types of cancers. It is particularly useful in treating cases of testicular cancer where surgery and chemotherapy are ineffective or partially effective (Kasper & BarCharts75). Symptoms causing considerable degree of discomfort are also minimized using radiation therapy. Treatment to reduce such symptoms is done when the cancer has spread to areas such as the spinal cord.
While radiation therapy is being performed, the ability of non-cancerous tissue near the cancerous growth to withstand certain doses of radiation is taken into account. Some organ tissues are sensitive to radiation and may suffer permanent damage if they are exposed to certain high levels of radiation. If other therapeutic procedures are being used in treatment of the testicular cancer, they may affect the manner in which radiation therapy is applied to the patient (Washington & Leaver 41).
Radiation therapy presents a useful solution in treatment of testicular cancer. This type of cancer has one of the highest rates of patient survival. This high rate of survival can be attributed to the use of radiation to kill the remnant cancerous cells after performing radical orcheitomy, which involves removal of the affected testes form the scrotum. Orchietomy is also used to diagnose a patient with testicular cancer after assessment of other symptoms and clinical examination.
Kasper, Michael E., and Inc BarCharts. Radiation therapy. Boca Raton, FL: BarCharts, Inc., 2009. Print.
Verville, Kathleen. Testicular cancer. New York: Chelsea House, 2009. Print.
Washington, Charles M., and Dennis T. Leaver. Principles and practice of radiation therapy. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Mosby Elsevier, 2010. Print.