Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy or irradiation, is the use of various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. Modern technology allows radiation oncologists to treat tumors more powerfully and precisely while sparing much of the healthy tissue that surrounds the tumor.
- Is a special kind of energy carried by waves or particles.
- Works by damaging the DNA within cancer cells and destroying the ability of the cancer cells to reproduce.
- Can be delivered internally or externally.
- Can come from special machines or from radioactive substances.
Depending on the type of cancer and its stage of development, radiation therapy can be used to:
- Cure cancer.
- Keep the cancer from spreading.
- Slow the cancer’s growth.
- Kill cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of the body from the original tumor.
- Relieve symptoms caused by the cancer.
Sometimes radiation therapy is the only treatment a patient needs, and other times it is only one part of a patient’s treatment. For example, prostate and early stage larynx cancers are often treated with radiation alone. But a woman with breast cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
It is important for you to discuss the goal of your treatment with your radiation oncologist.
Radiation Oncology Team
The process of designing and delivering a course of radiation therapy is a complicated process that depends on the expertise of several people pulling together, including:
- A radiation oncologist who plans and prescribes your treatments.
- A medical physicist who works with the radiation oncologist to ensure the accuracy of your treatment delivery.
- A dosimetrist who calculates the amount of radiation to be given and works with complex computers to custom design your treatment plan.
- A radiation therapist who actually administers the radiation treatments and that you will see every day.
- A registered nurse, who specializes in oncology care, is available to help you and your family during the course of treatment.
Is Radiation Therapy Safe?
Some patients have concerns about the safety of radiation therapy. Radiation has been successfully used to treat patients for more than a century. In that time, many advances have been made to ensure the safety and effectiveness.
Before you begin treatment, your radiation oncology team will carefully tailor the treatment plan to assure you receive safe and accurate treatment. Throughout your treatment, members of your team check and recheck your plan. Sophisticated computers are also used to monitor and ensure proper treatment is given.
If you undergo external beam radiation therapy, you will not be “radioactive” following treatment, because the radiation does not stay in your body. However, if you undergo brachytherapy, tiny radioactive sources will be implanted inside your body, in or around the tumor, either temporarily or permanently. Your radiation oncology team will explain any special precautions that you or your family and friends may need to take.
1900 CentraCare Circle, Suite 1600
St. Cloud, MN 56303
(877) 229-4907 toll-free
(320) 229-5160 fax