Precision Oncology

How Personalized Cancer Medicine Works

Problems with Radiation Therapy


Standard cancer treatment uses a type of radiation therapy called external beam radiation therapy (commonly known as external radiation). This is where high-energy beams are aimed into the tumour from outside the patient’s body. Like standard chemotherapy, standard radiation works by attacking all rapidly reproducing stem cells in the body:

  • External radiation does not differentiate between healthy cells and cancerous ones.
    • Therefore, it can cause significant side effects that are often worse than the cancer itself.
    • External radiation can actually cause recurrence of the cancer because it destroys the body so much.
    • It can produce side effects such as hair loss, nausea, and vomiting.
  • External radiation therapy causes extreme damage to your healthy cells.
    • If the treatment doesn’t manage to kill enough of the cancerous cells in time, it can cause so much damage to your healthy cells that the treatment itself will prevent you from recovering.
    • The amount of damage caused by radiation can lead to recurrence of the cancer later on in life.

Further, when a patient receives external radiation, the standard tests done prior will have likely not provided sufficient information about their tumours, and the standard treatments they’ll have been on might not have been effective. This means the area that the external radiation is targeting may be much larger than necessary, or even incorrect.

Cancer Cells

New Types of Radiation Therapy

Instead of using external beam radiation therapy, precision oncology uses a much newer, more advanced form of radiation called brachytherapy (also known as internal radiation therapy). In brachytherapy, the radiation is delivered with a high level of accuracy using small needles inserted close to the tumour. This makes it less invasive and more targeted, with fewer and less severe side effects than standard radiation.

Due to the targeted and precise nature of delivering the radiotherapy from inside the body, brachytherapy is much less risky than standard radiation.

  • Brachytherapy Benefits
    • Minimized risk of side effects
    • Minimally invasive technique
    • Doesn’t involve extensive surgery
    • Can be performed on an outpatient basis
    • Requires very short treatment times
    • Has short recovery times

And something further to consider – if a patient receives brachytherapy as a first-line treatment, it’s possible to do external radiation at a later date. However, it’s not possible the other way around: brachytherapy can not be done after a patient has been treated with external beam radiation.

If you or a loved one has received a cancer diagnosis and wants to access treatments that are proven to have longer survival rates and fewer side effects, contact CTOAM today. You can also book a free consultation with Director of Scientific Research, Alex Rolland, to discuss your case in more detail.

Do you want a free consultation with CTOAM’s Director of Scientific Research, Alex Rolland?

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