Radiotherapy for Cancer: Treatment, Costs, Side Effects & More

Radiotherapy

Treatment Duration

clock

10 Minutes

------ To ------

40 Minutes

Treatment Cost

rupee

38,000

------ To ------

2,70,000

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Radiotherapy

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Individuals diagnosed with cancer often undergo various treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation. Radiotherapy is a common approach in over 50% of cancer cases. It employs high-energy beams like X-rays or protons to eliminate cancer cells.

Oncologists have utilised radiotherapy for cancer treatment over the past century. They have successfully cleared out misconceptions surrounding this valuable therapy. Here, we explore why cancer specialists employ this treatment and how it contributes to healing.

Procedure name

Radiotherapy

Alternative name

Radiation therapy, Irradiation, X-ray therapy 13

Conditions treated

Cancer

Benefits of procedure

Kills and hinders the growth of cancer cells

Treated by

Oncologist

You can check Radiotherapy Cost here.

What is radiotherapy?

Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, involves administering high doses of X-rays to eliminate cancer cells and reduce tumour size. By impacting the DNA within cancer cells, these rays inhibit their growth and ability to regenerate. It is often used in combination with other approaches (chemotherapy and surgery).

Doctors generally use two approaches in radiation therapy. Brachytherapy (internal therapy) involves delivering radiation from inside the body. However, external radiotherapy administers it from outside.

Unlike chemotherapy and systemic interventions, it is a localized treatment. Careful planning ensures that radiation damages cancer cells while minimizing harm to surrounding healthy tissues.

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Types of Radiotherapy

There are two main types of radiotherapy. According to the condition of the patient and stage of cancer, a particular form of radiation therapy is recommended. Understanding the different kinds is essential for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

External Beam Radiation:

  1. Delivered from outside the body using a machine.

  2. Precisely targets cancer cells while minimising impact on healthy tissue.

Internal Radiation (Brachytherapy):

  1. Involves placing an irradiation source directly inside or very close to the tumour.

  2. Emission of high doses of radiation to the tumour while sparing surrounding tissue.

Systemic Radiation:

  1. Administers radioactive substances, usually in liquid form, to target cancer cells throughout the body.

  2. Spreads through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells in various organs.

Types Of External Beam Radiation

There are several types of EBRT. These include:

  1. Imrt Radiotherapy (Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy):

    1. Customises the intensity of radiation beams, maximising dose to cancer cells while minimising the impact on nearby normal tissues.
    2. Useful for complex tumour shapes.
  1. SBRT (Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy):

    1. Delivers highly focused, precise doses of radiation to small, well-defined tumours.
    2. Often used for lung, liver, and spine tumours.
  1. 3d Conformal Radiation Therapy (3d-Crt):

    1. Shapes radiation beams to match the tumour's size and shape in three dimensions.
    2. Enhances accuracy and reduces the impact on healthy tissue.
  1. Vmat Radiotherapy (Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy):

    1. Rotates the radiation machine around the patient while shaping and adjusting the intensity of the beams.
    2. Shortens therapy time and improves precision.
  1.  Igrt Radiotherapy (Image-Guided Radiation Therapy):

    1. Uses imaging technology to verify and adjust the patient's position before and during treatment.
    2. Ensures precise targeting of the tumour.
  1. Proton Therapy:

    1. Utilises protons instead of traditional X-rays for irradiation.
    2. Allows for accurate aiming and reduced radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.
  1. Tomotherapy:

    1. Integrates imaging and radiation delivery, providing continuous treatment in a spiral fashion.
    2. Enhances precision and minimises exposure to normal tissues.

These techniques offer personalised approaches to external beam radiation based on the characteristics and location of the cancerous tumour.

Some other types include:

  1. Hyperfractionated Radiotherapy:

This involves dividing the total prescribed radiation dose into smaller, more frequent doses. These are delivered over the course of a day or week.

  1. Adjuvant Radiotherapy: 

It is a type of radiation therapy that is administered after primary cancer treatment. It aims to eradicate any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of recurrence.

Conditions Treated With Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is a critical medical intervention used to treat a range of diseases, primarily focusing on cancer. It offers hope and a better prognosis (the likely outcome of a medical condition) for patients battling various forms of cancer.

The conditions treated by radiation therapy are:

  1. Breast cancer: Radiotherapy is often used post-surgery to eradicate remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of recurrence.

  2. Prostate cancer: It targets and destroys cancer cells in the prostate, either as the primary treatment or after surgery.

  3. Lung cancer: Radiation therapy may be employed to shrink tumours before surgery or as a primary treatment.

  4. Head and neck cancers: It target cancerous cells in the head and neck region, often used in conjunction with surgery or chemotherapy.

  5. Brain tumours: radiotherapy for brain tumours is either used as the main intervention or alongside surgery.

  6. Colorectal cancer: Radiation therapy can be part of the treatment plan for colorectal cancer, targeting cancer cells in the colon or rectum.

  7. Lymphomas: It is a key interventional approach for lymphomas, aiming to destroy cancer cells in the lymphatic system.

  8. Cervical cancer: Radiotherapy is often used for cervical cancer, either alone or in combination with surgery and chemotherapy.

  9. Bladder cancer: The therapy may be used in cases of bladder cancer, particularly for localised tumours.

  10. Pancreatic cancer: It is used to target cancer cells in the pancreas, often coupled with other treatments.

Who needs radiotherapy?

The decision to undergo radiotherapy is often a collaborative one between the patient, oncologist, and healthcare team. Essentially, the type and stage of cancer, overall health, and treatment goals are considered before starting the therapy.

Individuals diagnosed with various types of cancer may undergo radiotherapy, especially in the following cases:

  1. Primary intervention: Radiotherapy can serve as a priority treatment method to target and destroy cancer cells.

  2. Tumour shrinkage: It may be used to minimise tumour size, making surgical removal more effective.

  3. Post-surgery: After surgical excision of tumours, radiotherapy may be administered to eliminate any remnant cancer cells.

  4. Combination therapy: Often used in conjunction with other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery.

  5. Localised tumours: For cancers with site-specific growth, radiotherapy can be directed specifically at the affected area.

  6. Risk reduction: In cases where there is a higher chance of recurrence, it may be employed to prevent the return of cancer.

  7. Lymphatic system involvement: In lymphomas and cancers affecting the lymph network, radiotherapy is a key component of intervention.

  8. Precise targeting: It is particularly useful when specific focusing of cancer cells is essential to spare healthy surrounding tissues.

  9. Advanced cases: While more commonly used for localised cancers, radiotherapy may also be utilised in metastatic cases.

Benefits Of Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy offers a spectrum of benefits by harnessing targeted radiation to combat cancer cells. This therapeutic approach is integral for various cancer types, contributing significantly to improved outcomes.

  1. Non-surgical approach: Radiation therapy eliminates the need for major surgery, reducing associated complications.

  2. Minimal infection: Unlike surgery, there is no risk of infection, blood loss, or the need for transfusions.

  3. Painless with swift recovery: The absence of surgery-related pain and quicker recuperation contribute to patient comfort.

  4. Potential cure for localized cancer: In cases of confined tumours, radiation therapy proves to be curative.

  5. Precision in targeting: Ensures maximum radiation impact on the cancer site while safeguarding surrounding tissues. Hence, guarantees selective cancer cell eradication.

  6. Lower incidence of incontinence: Compared to surgery, radiation therapy has a reduced risk of losing control over urination.

  7. Delayed onset of impotence: Offers a slow-onset of sexual dysfunction as compared to surgical interventions.

  8. Avoidance of hormonal side effects: Spares patients from hormonal therapy adverse effects like hot flashes and weight gain.

  9. Palliative relief for bone metastases: Serves as end-of-life therapy (manages symptoms and prolongs life, but not curative), relieving pain in patients with bone malignancy.

  10. Post-surgery management: Used postoperative to target any remaining cancer cells.

  11. Outpatient: No hospital stay is required, with treatments conducted on an outpatient basis. In some cases, patients are discharged after 1-3 days until radioactivity in the body subsides.

  12. Quick sessions: Each sitting lasts 10-15 minutes, facilitating minimal disruption to daily activities.

Before And On The Day Of Radiotherapy

Before undergoing radiotherapy, patients need to make specific preparations to ensure a smooth and effective process. This phase is crucial for enhancing the effectiveness of radiotherapy and minimising any associated challenges.

Before Radiotherapy 

The specialist and healthcare team provide specific instructions to follow before the therapy day. Patients should be mentally and physically ready when they arrive for radiation.  

Parameter 

Prerequisites 

Initial consultation

Overview of the treatment plan

Pre-radiotherapy assessments

  1. Blood tests

  2. Dental

Risk evaluation

Side effects

Impact on healthy cells

Fasting

2- 4 hours (can vary)

CT simulation

Accurate scans for targeted therapy 

Medical dosimetrists

Calculating radiation dosage

On The Day Of Radiotherapy

Preparing for radiotherapy involves a series of important steps to ensure the effective and safe administration of treatment. This guide outlines the key aspects individuals can expect on the day of their radiotherapy sessions. 

Parameter 

Prerequisites 

Consent 

Mandatory

Duration

10 to 40 minutes

Preparation

  1. Procedure briefing

  2. Removing accessories

  3. Change into a hospital gown

Physical evaluation

Check vitals (BP, Heart rate, oxygen, pulse)

Oncologist consultation

Final blood test and health check-up

IV Line

Yes, for injecting systemic medication

Positioning 

Supine position (laying flat on the table)

Anaesthesia

General or conscious sedation

What is the radiotherapy procedure?

Patients undergoing radiation therapy will receive a personalised intervention. It is divided into various stages. Each step guides patients through the comprehensive experience of radiation therapy. 

The radiotherapy procedure typically involves the following steps:

  1. Consultation: Patients undergo a discussion with a radiation oncologist to discuss the treatment plan. Detailed imaging, such as CT scans, helps create a precise map of the therapeutic approach.

  2. Simulation: It involves positioning the patient for accurate radiation delivery. Immobilization devices or moulds may be used to ensure individuals remain calm and stable.

  3. Treatment planning: Radiation oncologists and medical physicists determine the optimal intervention based on the simulation data. Modern techniques, like intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), help adjust the dose.

  4. First session: During the initial sitting, patients are positioned using the simulation setup. Imaging or X-rays are taken to ensure accuracy before administering the radiation.

  5. Subsequent sittings: Individuals return for additional treatment sessions as prescribed by the radiation oncologist. Each session is typically brief, and the overall course may span several weeks.

  6. Monitoring and adjustments: Ongoing monitoring and periodic imaging help assess treatment effectiveness. Adjustments to the treatment plan may be made if necessary.

  7. Completion and follow-up: Upon completing the prescribed sessions, patients undergo a final evaluation. Post-therapy appointments assess long-term outcomes and potential side effects.

After Radiotherapy

Following radiotherapy, a critical recovery phase ensues, emphasising healing and side effect mitigation. This guide outlines post-radiotherapy recuperation, including essential steps for both in-hospital and at-home care.

Hospital Stay Duration: 

  1. Generally outpatient, but can last for a few days until radioactivity levels subside (It is considerably variable and depends on the amount of radiation you are receiving).

  2. It is contingent on treatment intensity and individual response.

Lifestyle Adjustments: 

  1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle, including balanced nutrition.

  2. Regular exercise and sufficient rest aid in the recovery process.

Vigilance For Complications: 

  1. Patients should remain vigilant for any unusual symptoms.

  2. Report problems promptly to their healthcare team for timely intervention.

Post-Treatment Assessments: 

  1. Regular follow-up appointments with oncologists are scheduled to evaluate treatment outcomes.

  2. Address concerns and plan ongoing care.

Side Effects Of Radiotherapy


Responses to radiation therapy are unique to each individual. While adverse effects are possible, not everyone will experience them. It is advisable to discuss and plan for potential ill effects with your doctor in advance. They can guide preventive measures and effective management strategies wherever possible.

The most common radiotherapy side effects affecting different parts of the body are listed below:
General Symptoms:

  1. Fatigue

  2. Headaches

Digestive System:

  1. Nausea and vomiting

  2. Diarrhoea

  3. Reduced appetite

  4. Abdominal bloating or cramps

Head And Neck:

  1. Mouth sores

  2. Pain when swallowing

  3. A burning feeling in your throat or chest

Skin:

  1. Skin irritation

  2. Dry, itchy scalp

  3. Hair loss

Urine And Bowel Movements:

  1. Pain or a burning sensation when urinating

  2. Frequent urination (often in small amounts)

  3. Sense of urgency to pass the stool

Long-Term Effects Of Radiotherapy Can Include:

Long-term side effects following radiotherapy can vary depending on the treated area of the body. Potential consequences may include:

  1. Altered skin appearance: Darkening of the skin in the target body part, resembling a persistent suntan. Increased sensitivity to sunlight and changes in dermal texture or touch can be expected.

  2. Hair changes: Hair in the treated part may grow back with a different colour or texture. Permanent hair loss within the affected area may occur.

  3. Skin markings: Development of red, spidery marks (telangiectasia) caused by small broken blood vessels on the skin.

  4. Lymphatic system effects: Partial blockage of drainage channels to the arms or legs, leading to swelling known as lymphoedema.

  5. Reproductive health impact: Potential impact on fertility. There is a risk of being unable to conceive or father a child if ovaries or testicles are in the radiotherapy field.

When to consult a doctor? 

After radiotherapy, it's crucial to monitor your health for any signs that may require medical attention. While side effects are common, some may indicate a need for prompt consultation with your healthcare provider.

Here's what you should be vigilant about:

  1. Prolonged fatigue

  2. Unusual pain or discomfort.

  3. Difficulty swallowing

  4. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  5. Unexplained weight loss

  6. Persistent nausea or vomiting

  7. Changes in bowel or bladder habits

  8. Fever or other infection signs

  9. Neurological symptoms (headaches or coordination problems)

  10. Blood in urine or stool

  11. Unusual swelling or lumps in treated or nearby areas

Note: If you experience any of these symptoms, it's essential to reach out to your healthcare team promptly. Please get in touch with HexaHealth if you have any concerns.

Risk Of Delaying Radiotherapy

Delaying radiotherapy for mouth cancer, brain tumours, or other malignancies may pose significant risks. It impacts the effectiveness of treatment and overall health outcomes. Timely intervention is crucial in cancer care.

Here are the potential risks associated with postponing radiotherapy:

  1. Progression: It allows cancer cells to continue multiplying, potentially leading to increased tumour size and complexity.

  1. Increased metastasis risk: The threat of cancer spreading to other parts of the body (metastasis) may rise.

  2. Reduced treatment efficacy: It's a time-sensitive intervention, and stalling may compromise its ability to eliminate cancer cells.

  3. Limited options: The delay may decrease the availability of certain treatment options.

  4. Impact on survival rates: Prompt and timely radiotherapy is often linked to better prognosis (the likely course of a medical condition).

  5. Increased complexity: A delayed approach may necessitate more aggressive or complex interventions.

  6. Potential for recurrence: Postponing the treatment raises the likelihood of cancer return.

  7. Psychological impact: Prolonged uncertainty can contribute to heightened stress and anxiety levels among patients.

Note: Patients and healthcare providers need to collaborate closely to ensure timely access to radiotherapy. Please contact HexaHealth for detailed information.

Cost Of Radiotherapy

The associated expense of radiotherapy is significantly variable due to a multitude of factors. It can be due to the patient’s condition, the stage of cancer, the radio technique used, etc. Here is a price range for this vital cancer intervention:

Radiotherapy 

Estimated Cost 

Minimum Price

₹ 38,000

Maximum Amount

₹ 2,60,000

Understanding the elements influencing radiotherapy costs is crucial for individuals undergoing this procedure. Here's an in-depth look at these factors:

  1. Type of facility: The choice of radiotherapy care plays a role, with renowned centres often having higher associated costs.

  2. Diagnostic procedures: Expenses include various investigative tests performed before radiotherapy to assess the patient's condition thoroughly.

  3. Radiation oncologist fees: The professional charge of a skilled specialist contributes to the overall cost.

  4. Post-treatment care: Expenses related to post-radiotherapy follow-up visits, medications, and any required rehabilitation services.

  5. Type of radiotherapy: Different types of radiation modalities have varying costs, influencing the price.

  6. Treatment setting: Whether radiotherapy is administered in an outpatient clinic, hospital, or at home can affect the total expense.

  7. Geographic location: Treatment centres located in prime areas may have a higher associated cost.

  8. Additional services: Any supportive therapies or counselling may contribute to the overall expenses.

Note: It's advisable to discuss financial aspects with healthcare providers to gain clarity. HexaHealth can assist you with a seamless experience; please get in touch with us for precise details.

HexaHealth: Empowering Your Journey To Healing!

Radiotherapy is a crucial intervention for cancer. It offers precision and efficacy through advanced technologies. From detailed treatment plans to high success rates, it plays a multifaceted role in both curative and palliative care. It provides profound relief and instills hope among patients.

HexaHealth stands out as a premier choice for radiotherapy with its commitment to enabling patients on their healing journey. We offer a dedicated team of experienced professionals, cutting-edge technology, and personalized care. This ensures that each patient receives the highest quality and most compassionate radiotherapy approach.

Expert Doctors

Dr. Sapna Nanagia
Hexa Partner

Radiation Oncology

36+ Years

Experience

100%

Recommended

Dr. Deepak Gupta
Hexa Partner

Oncology, Radiation Oncology

17+ Years

Experience

98%

Recommended

NABH Accredited Hospitals

Lilavati Hospital And Research Centre
JCI
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Lilavati Hospital And Research Centre

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Bandra West, Mumbai
Sri Sairam Hospital - Multispeciality Hospital in BTM
JCI
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Sri Sairam Hospital - Multispeciality Hospital in BTM

4.54/5(97 Ratings)
BTM Layout,, Bangalore

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Radiotherapy involves the application of radiation, typically X-rays, for cancer treatment. It can be administered internally, known as internal radiotherapy, or externally, where the radiation is applied from outside the body.


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Radiotherapy uses high doses of radiation to target and damage the DNA inside cancer cells, preventing their growth and division. Unlike surgery or radiation, which focus on specific areas, radiotherapy can treat cancer cells throughout the body.

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Radiotherapy can be used to treat various types of cancer, including but not limited to:

  1. Breast cancer

  2. Prostate cancer

  3. Lung cancer

  4. Colorectal cancer

  5. Head and neck cancers

  6. Brain tumours

  7. Lymphomas

  8. Gynaecological cancers (e.g., cervical, ovarian)

  9. Bladder cancer

  10. Sarcomas (soft tissue and bone cancers)

The specific choice of radiotherapy depends on the type, location, and stage of cancer, as well as the patient's overall health.

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Radiotherapy itself is generally not painful. During the actual treatment, However, some people may experience pain. The level of discomfort varies from person to person, and healthcare providers aim to manage any potential pain through appropriate measures.

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Radiotherapy is administered through the following two methods:

  1. External beam radiation: Where high-energy beams target cancer cells from outside the body

  2. Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy): Involves placing radioactive sources close to or inside the tumour for more precise treatment

The method chosen depends on the cancer type and location.

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The duration of a radiotherapy course varies but typically spans several weeks, with daily sessions lasting a few minutes each. Factors like cancer type, stage, and treatment goals determine the length.

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Side effects of radiotherapy can vary from person to person, and not everyone may experience them. Some of the common side effects are:

  1. Fatigue

  2. Skin changes

  3. Hair loss (in the treated area)

  4. Nausea and vomiting (if the abdomen is treated)

  5. Changes in bowel habits

  6. Changes in bladder habits

  7. Difficulty swallowing

  8. Cognitive changes (especially with brain radiation)

  9. Mouth and throat changes

  10. Sexual and reproductive changes

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Yes, radiotherapy can be used in combination with other cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. The decision between radiotherapy vs chemotherapy depends on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the individual's overall health and treatment goals.

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Radiotherapy during pregnancy might cause harm to the developing foetus. Generally, pregnant women with malignant diseases are advised to delay radiotherapy until after delivery.

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The treatment plan for radiotherapy is determined through a meticulous process involving: 

  1. Treatment plan design by radiation oncologists

  2. Imaging of the tumour and surrounding structures

  3. Calculation of the appropriate radiation dose

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During a radiotherapy session, patients can expect:

  1. Patients are positioned for comfort and precision.

  2. The radiation machine is aligned accurately.

  3. Precise delivery of radiation to targeted cells.

  4. Continuous monitoring during the session.

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The cost of each radiation therapy depends on multiple factors, including the type of therapy, hospital fees, diagnostic tests, surgeon's fees, and post-operative care. Prices can vary widely, and it's essential to consider these factors, along with insurance coverage and potential financial assistance.

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References

All the articles on HexaHealth are supported by verified medically-recognized sources such as; peer-reviewed academic research papers, research institutions, and medical journals. Our medical reviewers also check references of the articles to prioritize accuracy and relevance. Refer to our detailed editorial policy for more information.


  1. National Cancer Institute. Radiopharmaceuticals Emerging as New Cancer Therapy - National Cancer Institute [Internet]. www.cancer.gov. 2020. link
  2. Mayo Clinic. Radiation therapy - Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayoclinic.org. Mayo Clinic; 2020. link
  3. National Cancer Institute. Radiation Therapy To Treat Cancer [Internet]. National Cancer Institute. Cancer.gov; 2019. link
  4. American Cancer Society. How Radiation Therapy Is Used to Treat Cancer [Internet]. www.cancer.org. 2019.link
  5. Radiotherapy to relieve symptoms [Internet]. www.cancerresearchuk.org. [cited 2024 Feb 10]. link
  6. Benefits of Radiation Therapy - Austin Center for Radiation Oncology [Internet]. Austin Center RADIATION Oncology. link
  7. Vollmering K. Radiation therapy: What to expect [Internet]. MD Anderson Cancer Center. link
  8. Cancer.net. What is Radiation Therapy? [Internet]. Cancer.net. 2013.link
  9. Radiation Therapy for Cancer - National Cancer Institute [Internet]. www.cancer.gov. 2015. link
  10. When to Call the Doctor During Cancer Treatment [Internet]. Cancer.net. 2012. link
  11. Radiation Therapy: Purpose, Risks, Procedure, and More [Internet]. Healthline. 2022.link
  12. Kal HB, Struikmans H. Radiotherapy during pregnancy: fact and fiction. The Lancet Oncology. 2005 May;6(5):328–33.link
  13. How Radiation Therapy Is Used to Treat Cancer [Internet]. www.cancer.org. [cited 2024 Feb 10]. link

Reviewer

Dr. Abhishek Gulia

Dr. Abhishek Gulia

MBBS, MD Radio Therapy, Fellowship in Advanced Radiation Technology

16 Years Experience

Dr Abhishek Gulia is a well-known Radiation Oncology currently associated with Jaypee Hospital in Noida. He has 16 years of experience in radiation oncology and worked as an expert radiation oncologist in different cities in India. ...View More

Author

Dr Priyamvada Upadhyay

Dr Priyamvada Upadhyay

Master of Public Health (MPH) from Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR) - 2024 | Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) from Rajasthan University of Health Sciences (RUHS) - 2020

4 Years Experience

With a comprehensive academic background in BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) followed by an MPH (Master of Public Health), she brings a unique blend of clinical expertise and public health knowledge to the table. H...View More

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