Radiation Therapy for Benign Conditions
Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to damage the DNA of cells. While radiation is most often used to treat cancer, there are several non-cancerous conditions that may be treated with radiation. These include:
- Graves opthalmopathy.
- Orbital pseudotumor.
- Macular degeneration.
- Heterotopic bone.
- Acne was treated with radiation in the past.
Another form of radiation therapy is photochemotherapy or PUVA therapy, which is the use of photosensitizing medications in combination with ultraviolet light to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
What are the dangers of radiation therapy?
Radiation can damage normal cells in the same way it damages cancer cells. This damage to healthy cells can increase the risk of developing a cancer in the areas that were treated. How high the risk depends on the doses received. For example, in PUVA therapy, the radiation reaches the skin, but does not penetrate into the body. This therapy increases the risk of developing a skin cancer in the area(s) treated. People who have received PUVA therapy should make their healthcare provider aware of this, have routine skin examinations, and become familiar with their own skin, reporting any changes to their healthcare provider.
External beam radiation therapy (which uses a treatment machine) penetrates through the body, in on one side and out the other, resulting in all the areas in the path of the beam being exposed to radiation. This can include skin, muscle, bone, and any organs or structures in the path of the radiation beam. While the risk of cancer from external beam radiation is low, people who have received this therapy should be aware of the risk and report any changes in the area of treatment, such as non-healing wounds, lumps, or any new or worsening pain.
McKeown, S.R. et al. Radiotherapy for benign disease; assessing the risk of radiation-induced cancer following exposure to intermediate dose radiation. 2015. Found at https://www.birpublications.org/doi/full/10.1259/bjr.20150405
Taylor, R.E. et al. Radiotherapy for Benign Disease: Current Evidence, Benefits and Risks. 2015. Found at https://www.clinicaloncologyonline.net/article/S0936-6555(15)00033-3/pdf#:~:text=Most%20patients%20treated%20by%20external,of%20benign%20tumours%20%5B1%5D.