External Beam Radiotherapy

External Beam Radiotherapy (EBRT): A Non-Invasive Cancer Treatment Using High-Energy Beams to Target and Destroy Cancerous Cells

External Beam Radiotherapy (EBRT) is a non-invasive cancer treatment involving high-energy beams, such as X-rays, protons, or electrons, to target and destroy cancerous cells within the patient’s body. As one of the most common and widely used methods of radiation therapy, EBRT has emerged as a vital component of modern cancer management, proving effective in treating a variety of malignancies, from localised tumours to metastatic cancer.

The Concept and Mechanism of EBRT

The principle behind EBRT lies in the ability to ionise radiation to damage the DNA within cancerous cells, ultimately inhibiting their ability to divide and proliferate. The high-energy beams used in EBRT are carefully directed at the tumour site, ensuring that the surrounding healthy tissues receive minimal radiation exposure. However, over time, the accumulated radiation dose causes enough damage to the cancer cells that they can no longer repair themselves, resulting in cell death and a reduction in tumour size.

Types of External Beam Radiotherapy

There are several types of EBRT, each utilising different forms of radiation to achieve optimal results:

  • Conventional X-ray therapy is the most common form of EBRT, using high-energy X-ray beams to target the tumour. The X-rays are generated using a linear accelerator, which accelerates electrons and collides them with a target, producing the desired radiation.
  • Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is an advanced X-ray therapy that accurately adjusts radiation beam intensity across the treatment area. This enables radiation oncologists to deliver a higher dose to the tumour while sparing healthy tissues.
  • Proton therapy employs high-energy protons, positively charged particles, to target and destroy cancer cells. Due to their unique physical properties, protons release their energy at a specific depth within the body, allowing for greater precision in treating tumours and minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissues.
  • Electron therapy is a type of EBRT that uses high-energy electrons to treat superficial tumours, such as skin cancer or tumours near the body’s surface. The electrons deposit their energy over a shallow depth, limiting damage to deeper tissues.

Treatment Planning and Delivery

Before EBRT can be administered, thorough treatment planning is undertaken to ensure optimal results. This involves imaging studies, such as CT scans or MRIs, to accurately visualise the tumour and its location within the body. With sophisticated software, radiation oncologists design a tailored treatment plan, specifying the radiation dose, beam angles, and treatment schedule.

EBRT treatments are typically delivered over several weeks, with patients receiving daily radiation sessions. The length of treatment depends on factors such as the tumour type, location, and the patient’s overall health.

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