What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy is one of the main methods of treating cancer. It uses machines called linear accelerators to deliver precise and focused high energy x-rays to damage or kill cancer cells. It is a powerful and well proven tool used in the battle against cancer. It has revolutionized the management of many tumors and improved the outcome of persons suffering malignancy over the past few decades and saved countless from hardship and mortality.
What are the Complications That May Arise from Radiation Therapy?
As in all therapies - not all outcomes are equally favorable. In a small percentage of those who receive radiotherapy, the tissue response is accentuated and damage to normal tissue occurs. The unpleasant effects usually settle post irradiation, however not in all cases.
Problems can manifest in many ways:
- thinning out "wasting" of tissue
- fibrotic transformation ( elastic tissue becomes tough and leathery)
- bone fractures (known as insufficiency fractures/ or pathological fractures) when bones become weak and break spontaneously or with minor trauma
- infection - lack of host defences to keep bacteria and other invaders at bay.
- pain - this may result form damage to the nervous tissue as well as chronic inflammation of the supporting tissues - know to occur as a result of the radiotherapy
- bleeding - spontaneously due to lack of regular repair and maintenance
The common underlying feature is a loss of the normal ability to perform “housekeeping chores” of tissue repair and maintenance.
The timing of these unwanted biological effects of radiation exposure (Complications) can be divided into 2 groups:
1. If sustained following treatment the problem is called persistent radiation effects.
2. If the initial inflammation settles and then after 3 months or more, tissue deterioration and loss of function develops, this has been termed radiation late effects.
What Options are Available for Those Suffering from Radiation Therapy Complications?
In 2000 the Adult Radiotherapy Late Effects Clinic was initiated at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto to try and expand the range of options available to those suffering from complications of radiation therapy. Dr. Levin and Dr. Evans were co-founders of this service. That clinic has helped > 1000 patients to date. This experience has enabled the provision of a range of therapeutic options to meet the needs of this population.
IN 2016, Dr. Wayne Evans established the Radiotherapy Late Effects Clinic as a further expansion of the services available to Ontario residents to assist those who have developed complications of radiotherapy. Please view our expanded therapeutic choices.