Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy, x-ray therapy radiation treatment, cobalt therapy, electron beam therapy, or irradiation uses high energy, penetrating waves or particles such as x rays, gamma rays, proton rays, or neutron rays to destroy cancer cells or keep them from reproducing.
The purpose of radiation therapy is to kill or damage cancer cells. Radiation therapy is a common form of cancer therapy. It is used in more than half of all cancer cases. Radiation therapy can be used:
alone to kill cancer
before surgery to shrink a tumor and make it easier to remove
during surgery to kill cancer cells that may remain in surrounding tissue after the surgery (called intraoperative radiation)
after surgery to kill cancer cells remaining in the body
to shrink an inoperable tumor in order to and reduce pain and improve quality of life
For some kinds of cancers such as early-stage Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and certain types of prostate, or brain cancer, radiation therapy alone may cure the disease. In other cases, radiation therapy used in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, or both, increases survival rates over any of these therapies used alone.
Radiation therapy does not make the person having the treatments radioactive. In almost all cases, the benefits of this therapy outweigh the risks. However radiation therapy can have has serious consequences, so anyone contemplating it should be sure understand why the treatment team believes it is the best possible treatment option for their cancer. Radiation therapy is often not appropriate for pregnant women, because the radiation can damage the cells of the developing baby. Women who think they might be pregnant should discuss this with their doctor.
Lorraine Lica, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,