What is Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. Radiation therapy works by damaging the genetic material within cancer cells and limiting their ability to successfully reproduce. When these damaged cancer cells die, the body naturally eliminates them. Although radiation affects both cancer and normal cells, it has a greater effect on the cancer cells; normal are able to repair themselves in a way that cancer cells cannot. Your physician will develop a plan to deliver the radiation precisely to the tumor area, shielding as much of the surrounding normal tissue as possible.

Your physician may recommend using radiation therapy in a number of different ways. Sometimes the goal is to cure the cancer. In this case, radiation therapy may be used to:

  • Destroy tumors that have not spread to other parts of your body and cure you of disease. 
  • Reduce the risk that cancer will return after you undergo surgery or chemotherapy by killing small amounts of cancer that might remain.
  • Shrink the cancer before surgery.

In other cases, the goal is to reduce the symptoms caused by growing tumors and to improve your quality of life. When radiation therapy is administered for this purpose, it is called palliative care or palliation. In this instance, radiation may be used to:

  • Shrink tumors that are interfering with your quality of life, such as a lung tumor that is causing shortness of breath.
  • Relieve pain by reducing the size of a tumor.

Your physician will meet with you on your first visit to our office, to ensure that you understand the goals of your treatment.

*Some content provided by the American Society of Radiation Oncology.