2 Jun
2010

I believe that one of the most valuable roles of radiation in cancer treatment is palliative — the control of symptoms. Here, the aim is not to cure or completely control the cancer, but simply to treat some of its symptoms. As a rule, the doses needed for palliative treatment are much less than for curative treatment because the aim is only to shrink a particular cancer deposit, not to kill every cell in it. Thus, the side effects of palliative treatment tend to be relatively minor. There are many symptoms that can be relieved temporarily by reducing the size of a cancer deposit.
Pain due to a cancer deposit in a bone can often be relieved by radiation. The radiation can also reduce the chance of fracture of the affected bone. Pain due to pressure on nerves or other sensitive structures near a cancer deposit may be relieved by shrinking the growth by radiation. Symptoms due to cancer in the brain like headache, vomiting, paralysis and numbness may be temporarily relieved by radiation treatment. A cancer growth that has ulcerated through the skin may be shrunk sufficiently for the skin to heal over. Bleeding from an ulcerated cancer deposit may be stopped by radiation. A cancer that is causing an obstruction may be shrunk by radiation enough to temporarily relieve the blockage and its symptoms. For example, blockage of blood or lymph vessels, bronchial tubes, the oesophagus (gullet), the ureter (tube from kidney to bladder) or the lower bowel may be temporarily relieved by radiation.
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Cancer
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