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Radiation therapy is treatment that uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. External beam radiation aims radiation at the cancer from outside the body. Liver cancer cells can be killed by radiation, but this treatment can't be used at very high doses because it kills normal liver tissue, too. This type of radiation may be used to shrink a liver tumor or to relieve symptoms like pain, but it is not used as often as other local treatments such as ablation or embolization.

Before your treatments start, the radiation team will take careful measurements to figure out the correct angles for aiming the radiation beams and the proper dose of radiation. Having the treatment is painless. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time – getting you into place for treatment – usually takes longer. Most often, radiation treatments are given 5 days a week for several weeks.

Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is a way of giving radiation that aims many beams of radiation at the tumor from different angles. This allows high doses of radiation to be focused on the tumor. The entire treatment is given over only a few days.

Possible side effects of radiation treatment

Side effects of radiation treatment might include skin problems at the place where the radiation enters the body, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. Often these go away after treatment is finished. Radiation might also make chemo side effects worse.

Last Medical Review: 11/19/2014
Last Revised: 02/23/2016