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Author: Anoma Ranaweera B.V. Sc; PhD (Clinical Biochemistry, University of Liverpool, UK), 2011.
Radiation therapy uses x-rays and electrons to treat skin tumours. The mycosis fungoides variant of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) was one of the first types of cancers to be treated with radiation therapy only a few years after x-rays were discovered at the end of the 19th century.
Radiation therapy can be used to treat individual CTCL lesions or the entire skin surface.
Electron beam radiation is a type of radiotherapy that consists of very tiny electrically charged particles generated in a linear accelerator and directed towards the skin.
Electron beam radiation therapy has replaced orthovoltage (low energy) x-ray therapy in many centres treating cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
Orthovoltage (low energy) x-rays can effectively treat recurrent cutaneous lymphoma lesions, but its penetration to underlying tissues (blood vessels, muscles, bone marrow) is a disadvantage if the disease is widespread. In contrast, electron beam therapy delivers radiation primarily to the superficial layers of the skin.
Electron beam radiation is very damaging to the tumour cells but is fairly well tolerated by the surrounding normal skin cells.
Electron beam radiation can be localised or applied to the entire skin surface.
There is no sensation or discomfort with electron beam treatment. Most people are able to tolerate the treatments well with minimal or moderate side effects.
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