Understanding Radiation Therapy

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What is radiation therapy? When is it used?

Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons, to destroy or damage cancer cells. Other names for radiation therapy are radiotherapy, irradiation, or x-ray therapy.

Radiation therapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer. It’s often part of the main treatment for certain types of cancer, such as cancers of the head and neck, bladder, lung, and Hodgkin disease. Many other cancers are also treated with radiation therapy. Thousands of people become cancer free after getting radiation treatments.

Radiation can be given alone or used with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy. In fact, certain drugs are known to be radiosensitizers. This means they can actually make the cancer cells more sensitive to radiation, which allows the radiation to better kill cancer cells.

There are also different ways to give radiation. Sometimes a patient gets more than one type of radiation treatment for the same cancer.


Last Medical Review: 01/24/2013
Last Revised: 01/24/2013