MOST people associate radiation therapy with fighting cancer, but not many know it’s successfully used to treat less serious skin growths and musculoskeletal conditions.
For decades, radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy) has been used to reduce pain from degenerative and inflammatory conditions, including tennis elbow, rotator cuff syndrome, Dupuytren’s contracture, plantar fibromatosis, and Achilles tendinopathy.
It can also be used to treat golfer’s elbow, moderate osteoarthritis of the knees and hips, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis where other conventional treatments may have failed.
Radiation oncologist Dr Sid Baxi says the treatment has emerged as a non-invasive alternative to steroid injections, anti-inflammatory drugs and on some occasions, even surgery.
“One of the most common treatments is for keloid scars, which are excessive scars after an injury or surgery. It’s very useful for stopping that dead in its tracks,” he says.
“Around forty per cent of patients notice that radiation therapy stops scars and problems like Dupuytren’s contracture from getting worse, and forty per cent say it actually improves the condition.”
Radiation therapy is a well proven technique for cancer, but Dr Baxi says many doctors are unaware it is a treatment option for benign or non-cancerous conditions.
“As a field of medicine, we have not actively informed GPs and other practitioners about how radiation therapy can help,” he says.
“Radiation treatment has traditionally been a limited resource in Australia because it’s been prioritised for cancer treatment.
“But in the last 10 years or so it has become more available in public and private hospitals.
“Now we have the option to present it to patients as an alternative treatment option for many benign conditions.”
Aside from some redness of the skin, which usually disappears after two to three weeks, there are little side-effects.
“It’s a non-invasive outpatient treatment. There’s no cutting, stitches or needles, and it’s usually administered in five to ten 15-minute sessions, so it’s not a lengthy process,” Dr Baxi says.
Genesis CancerCare’s central hub is located at Perth Radiation Oncology in Wembley, but there are three other treatment facilities across Bunbury, Joondalup and Murdoch. Genesis CancerCare radiation oncologists are some of the leading practitioners in radiation therapy for benign conditions.