• English
  • العربية
  • 中文
  • Français
  • Русский
  • Español

You are here

World Cancer Day: Safe Cancer Treatment With Radiotherapy

4 February 2017
Radiotherapy is one of the main types of cancer treatment. It uses ionizing radiation to destroy cancer cells and limit cell growth. It is applied by a team of qualified experts with the appropriate education and many years of experience in radiation oncology, medical physics and radiation therapy. Radiotherapy can be delivered externally or internally.In external beam radiotherapy, radiation beams are directed towards the treatment site in the patient’s body. In brachytherapy, small and encapsulated radioactive sources are placed directly into or near the volume to be treated inside the patient’s body. For some cancers the patient may be treated by both external beam and brachytherapy. Brachytherapy sources are usually sealed so that the radioactive material is contained fully encapsulated within a protective capsule. This capsule is designed to prevent leakage or escape of the radioactive source and it makes the source rigid.In the planning phase of the treatment, the radiation therapist may make a mask out of plastic or other material with markings to help reproduce the treatment every day. It also helps the patient to remain still during the treatment.The radiation therapists use imaging techniques to identify where the patient needs to be treated. This is called simulation. Simulation allows the radiation therapists to accurately position the patient on a daily basis to treat the cancer.The radiation oncologist will determine what type of machine is used, how many treatments are needed and how frequently the patient will be treated. The radiation oncologists, medical physicists and radiation therapists work as a team to plan the treatment. Developing of an individual treatment plan is crucial. The treatment is designed to treat a specific area while sparing normal tissue.Before the radiotherapy procedure, the radiation therapist leaves the room to perform the treatment. The patient is always monitored by the radiation therapists who can see and hear the patient and can speak to the patient using an intercom system.Delivering safe radiotherapy is in the hands of highly qualified health professionals working in a safe environment with equipment that meets international standards. They are trained to reduce any incidents and always place patient safety first.The patient is monitored throughout the duration of the procedure by experienced health professionals.During treatment, the radiation therapist may take more images or place small electronic devices on the patient to measure the radiation. These are tools to verify the treatment location and measure the amount of radiation the patient is receiving.Radiation therapists are trained to not only provide the treatment but to also provide patient care. Radiation therapy is an effective use of radiation in saving lives.<p>The IAEA released a voluntary reporting and learning system called <a href="https://rpop.iaea.org/RPOP/RPoP/Modules/login/safron-register.htm">Safety in Radiation Oncology (SAFRON)</a>. The system has already collected around 1,400 reports on radiotherapy incidents and near misses for global learning purposes. </p>

<p>The IAEA has also developed an <a href="https://rpop.iaea.org/RPOP/RPoP/Content/News/e-learning.htm">e-learning course on radiotherapy safety</a>. For more information visit the <a href="https://rpop.iaea.org">Radiation Protection of Patients Platform</a>.

<p>Photos: D. Calma/IAEA</p>

<p>©2017 IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security</p>

Radiotherapy is one of the main types of cancer treatment but how does it work and is it safe? This photo essay will introduces radiotherapy and guides through the process of external beam radiotherapy.

Last update: 15 February 2018

Stay in touch