October 2020
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Radiation therapy or radiotherapy is a therapy using ionizing radiation, generally as part of cancer treatment to control or kill malignant cells and normally delivered by a linear accelerator.

Radiation therapy may be curative in a number of types of cancer if they are localized to one area of the body.

It may also be used as part of adjuvant therapy, to prevent tumor recurrence after surgery to remove a primary malignant tumor (for example, early stages of breast cancer).

Radiation therapy is synergistic with chemotherapy and has been used before, during, and after chemotherapy in susceptible cancers.

The subspecialty of oncology concerned with radiotherapy is called radiation oncology.

Radiation therapy is commonly applied to the cancerous tumor because of its ability to control cell growth.

Ionizing radiation works by damaging the DNA of cancerous tissue leading to cellular death.

To spare normal tissues (such as skin or organs which radiation must pass through to treat the tumor), shaped radiation beams are aimed from several angles of exposure to intersect at the tumor, providing a much larger absorbed dose there than in the surrounding, healthy tissue.

Besides a tumor itself, the radiation fields may also include the draining lymph nodes if they are clinically or radiologically involved with tumor, or if there is thought to be a risk of subclinical malignant spread.

Radiation oncology is the medical specialty concerned with prescribing radiation and is distinct from radiology, the use of radiation in medical imaging and diagnosis.

Radiation may be prescribed by a radiation oncologist with intent to cure (“curative”) or for adjuvant therapy.

It may also be used as palliative treatment (where the cure is not possible and the aim is for local disease control or symptomatic relief) or as therapeutic treatment (where the therapy has a survival benefit and it can be curative).

It is also common to combine radiation therapy with surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, or some mixture of the four.

Most common cancer types can be treated with radiation therapy in some way.

The precise treatment intent (curative, adjuvant, neoadjuvant therapeutic, or palliative) will depend on the tumor type, location, and stage, as well as the general health of the patient.

What is Radiation Therapy and How is it Used to Treat Cancer?

Cancer Treatment: What to Expect | UCLA Radiation Oncology

What to Expect When Receiving Radiation Therapy Treatment

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