Treating your Cancer with Radiation Therapy
In radiation therapy, beams of energy or radioactive particles are aimed directly at a tumor or place in the body that has been invaded by cancer. The technique is so effective in treating some types of cancer that more than half of all patients with cancer receive radiation treatments.
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells or keeps them from growing and spreading. Radiation is a localized treatment that zeros in tightly on a tumor or cancerous cells. Radiation therapists shield normal tissue from the radiation, and radiation oncologists select treatment schedules that spread radiation treatments over time to minimize damage to normal cells. Some normal cells may be damaged by the radiation, but unlike cancer cells, most normal cells recover.
How Radiation Therapy is Used
Radiation is often combined with chemotherapy, a systemic treatment that reaches all parts of the body through the bloodstream. Radiation can improve the outcomes of chemotherapy by providing another method of reducing tumor size. Chemotherapy can improve the outcome of radiation by sensitizing cancer cells to radiation effects.
When used before surgery, radiation can shrink a tumor and make it easier for the surgeon to remove.
Radiation can be used after surgery to stop any remaining cancer cells from growing, preventing the cancer from returning, or spreading to other parts of the body.
Unfortunately, cancer cannot always be stopped completely. For terminally ill patients, radiation therapy can improve quality of life by reducing tumor size, thereby reducing pain, pressure, and other cancer symptoms.