Radiation therapy or radiotherapy is a cancer treatment where intense radiation beams kill the cancer cells. Radiation therapy uses X-rays, protons, or other types of energy.
Half of all people who undergo cancer get radiation therapy as a component of their cancer treatment. Doctors utilize radiation therapy to treat every type of cancer. Radiotherapy is also beneficial in treating some noncancerous tumors.
- Attempt to cure cancer completely
- Helps complete other treatments more effectively – merging with chemotherapy or used before surgery (neo-adjuvant radiotherapy)
- Decrease the risk of reoccurring cancer back after surgery (adjuvant radiotherapy)
- Reduce symptoms if a cure is not possible (palliative radiotherapy)
Your doctors will suggest the best type for the application of radiotherapy.
The most common types are:
- External radiotherapy, where a machine carefully aims the beams of radiation at the cancer site
- Brachytherapy radiotherapy implants, where small pieces of radioactive metal get temporarily placed inside your body near the cancer
- Radiotherapy injections, where radioactive liquid injected into your blood
- Radioisotope therapy capsules or drinks, where you swallow a radioactive liquid
- Intrabeam radiotherapy, where radiation deliver directly at the tumor during breast cancer surgery
In the hospital site, you usually will get radiotherapy. You can go home after external radiotherapy, but most people undergo several sessions.
Radiotherapy can damage some healthy cells.
Some side effects:
- The skin may change color, darker or lighter than your usual skin tone
- A sore mouth
- Feeling exhausted
- Hair loss in the treated area
- Feeling sick
- Loss of appetite
These side effects will go away after treatment stops.
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 04 October 2022