Radiation therapy is the use of high energy x-rays to stop malignant cells from growing and multiplying. The radiation ultimately damages the DNA of cancer cells that leads to the eventual death of the cancer cells. Since cancer cells grow more rapidly than normal cells, they are more sensitive to radiation. Delivering daily treatments over a period of weeks damages the cancer cells beyond repair but allows time for normal cells to recover.
Radiation therapy can be delivered several different ways, with the most common being external beam therapy and brachytherapy. External beam therapy uses a sophisticated type of machine called a linear accelerator, which delivers a high-energy beam to the cancer region. The other common option is brachytherapy, which can be delivered internally or topically with radioactive sources implanted in the tumor region.
Radiation is an extremely versatile form of treatment for cancer. It can be used alone, or in combination with chemotherapy and/or surgery. Radiation can shrink tumors and relieve pain or other symptoms. A typical treatment plan may take between three to nine weeks, depending on disease being treated.
Depending on the type, staging, and location of the tumor, one or more forms of radiation can be used. More recent advances in 3-D, IMRT, and IGRT planning allow Hyde Park Cancer Center to target cancer cells while sparing much of surrounding tissues.
As with any cancer treatment, there are different side effects a patient may experience. Our team assesses each patient to reduce severe and debilitating side effects and monitors the patient throughout treatment. Common side effects include dry and itchy skin, fatigue, exhaustion and nausea. There are other side effects depending on the location of treatment, such as the head and neck, chest, stomach and abdomen, and pelvis.