What is Radiation Therapy

What is Radiation Therapy?

What is radiation therapy and how does it work?

Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) is a cancer treatment that uses very sophisticated technology to kill cancer cells. Radiation is a form of energy that in high doses destroys cells or keeps them from multiplying by damaging the cells’ DNA.

How is radiation therapy given?

Radiation therapy is delivered using specialized equipment. There are two main types of radiation therapy:
• External—when a machine outside your body aims radiation at cancer cells
• Internal (also called brachytherapy)—when radioactive substances are placed inside your body to treat cancer cells
Radiation therapy is given to you by a team of health care professionals led by a Radiation Oncologist, a doctor who specializes in the delivery of radiation therapy.

Is radiation therapy used with other types of cancer treatment?

Some types of cancers respond to radiation therapy alone. Other types of cancers may require multiple therapies in addition to radiation, such as surgery and/or chemotherapy.

Who gets radiation therapy?

Many people with cancer need radiation therapy. Statistics show that more than half of cancer patients receive radiation therapy.

What does radiation therapy do to cancer cells and to healthy cells?

Radiation treatments are designed to minimize radiation exposure to normal cells. However, it is impossible to deliver therapeutic radiation doses to a patient's tumor without delivering some of that dose to normal cells around the tumor. This may result in normal cell damage that can cause side effects. These potential side effects are managed by your Radiation Oncologist.

How long does radiation therapy take to work?

It can take days or weeks of treatment before cancer cells start to die. The cancer cells keep dying for weeks or months after radiation therapy ends.

What happens when radiation therapy is over?

Once you have finished radiation therapy, you will need continued follow-up care with your Radiation Oncologist and other cancer care specialists. This may require a combination of physical examination, radiological studies (e.g., X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, etc.) and/or bloodwork. During your follow-up visits with your doctors, you will also be evaluated for tolerance to cancer treatments, including management of any side effects that you may have experienced.

Cancer Guide