How Does Radiotherapy Help Relieve Pain?

July 19, 2022

Radiotherapy and radiosurgery and primarily used in a highly targeted way to help remove malignant tumours and other cancerous cells before they can spread and cause considerable harm.

In particular, the precise nature of Gamma Knife radiosurgery allows for the treatment of brain tumours and complex neurological conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia.

However, whilst it is primarily used for the eradication of tumours, radiosurgery techniques can also be used to assist with pain relief for certain types of cancer that are untreatable or have become untreatable.

This is known as palliative radiation therapy and is primarily used for managing the debilitating pain that some people suffering from bone cancer can feel, although it can be used to manage the pain of skin cancer and other forms as well.

To explain how radiotherapy helps with pain relief, we need to understand why cancer cells can cause pain to begin with.

Tumours, lesions and growths associated with cancer can grow, and as they grow they can start to press against nerves, organs and bones. This pressure can feel painful and is compounded by the pain caused by tumours destroying healthy tissue surrounding them.

In the case of bone cancer, this is compounded by bone cells being weakened, increasing the chance of painful breaks.

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells and shrinks tumours, which can help ease the pressure on parts of the body the cancer is affecting, and increase the viability of surgery to remove tumours, even if not every growth can be operated on.

Whilst in some cases radiotherapy takes the form of radiation drugs that are injected into a target area, the main form of radiotherapy is external, which uses a machine such as a gamma knife to aim beams of radiation to target cancer cells.

After the course of treatment, it can take a few weeks, but the majority of people who have had palliative radiotherapy have claimed it has reduced or removed pain caused by the cancerous cells.