Radiation Treatment for Back Pain

Radiation Treatment for Back Pain

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is a popular treatment for treating and removing malignant and benign tumors. Back pain is a common condition in industrialized societies where sedentary lifestyles are the norm. Radiation therapy is not used to treat common back pains, such as slipped discs, a herniated back and other related ailments. There is only a particular kind of back pain in which radiation is used: back pain that is the result of a tumor.

Administering Radiation Therapy
Cancer can occur in the upper or lower back. Pain can be caused by spinal tumors located anywhere from the spine to the anal canal. In some cases, back pain can be a result of cancers associated with the urinary bladder. If a part of skin in the anterior part of the body is afflicted with cancer and is causing pain, that can also qualify as a case for radiation therapy.

Types of Radiation Therapy for Back Pain
There are a broad variety of radiotherapy options for removing or treating spinal tumors that cause back pain. These include external radiotherapy, which is administered from outside the body; internal radiotherapy, which delivers radiation to the affected part through sealed packets placed near the tumor; palliative radiotherapy, which is given to reduce pain and prevent the spread of the tumor, and prophylactic radiotherapy, which is given to non-cancerous areas to prevent them from becoming affected.

Radiation Therapy
The preferred outcome of radiation therapy is destruction, or at least weakening, of the spinal tumor. Depending on the severity and other factors that a qualified oncologist will determine, radiation therapy may be administered for any duration between one day and 10 weeks. Generally, most cases require treatment periods of five to seven weeks. A team of doctors is on hand to coordinate and carry out the radiation treatment. These include a neuroradiologist, a radiation oncologist, an angiographer, a dosimetrist who determines the input and number of times radiation is required, and a pathologist. This team makes a careful evaluation of the radiation therapy required based on several factors such as the patient's condition, age and symptoms. Spots in which radiation is needed are marked on the body, and radiation is passed through a linear accelerator. The entire procedure lasts barely five minutes and is painless.

Side effects of radiotherapy for the back are the same as those with radiation for any kind of cancer. These include vomiting; irritation on the locus of the therapy; hair loss and exhaustion.