Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, is the use of different types of radiation to safely and efficiently cure cancer and other diseases. Radiation oncologists can use radiation to cure cancer, to control the growth of the cancer or to alleviate symptoms, such as Pain. Radiation therapy works by destroying cells. Healthy cells can rebuild themselves, while cancer cells can not. New techniques also allow doctors to better aim the radiation to protect healthy cells.
Often Radiation therapy is the only medication a patient requires. In many times, it is just one aspect of a patient’s diagnosis. For example, Prostate Cancer and larynx cancer are often treated with Radiotherapy alone, while a woman with Breast Cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation and Chemotherapy.
Radiation can also be used to make the primary treatment more successful. For example, you may be treated with Radiotherapy before Surgery to help shrink the tumour and allow less aggressive operation; or you may be treated with radiation after Surgery to destroy small amounts of cancer that may have been left behind. A radiation oncologist can choose to use Radiation therapy in a variety of different ways. Often the aim is to cure cancer. In this case, Radiation therapy can be used to:
- Destroy tumours that have not spread to other areas of the body.
- Reduce the likelihood that cancer will return after you undergo Surgery or Chemotherapy by killing tiny quantities of cancer that may remain.
Sometimes, the ultimate aim is to slow down the cancer as much as possible. For other situations, the objective is to reduce the symptoms caused by increasing tumours and to improve the quality of life. When Radiation therapy is administered for this purpose, it is called palliative care. In this instance, radiation may be used to:
- Shrink tumours that are messing with the quality of life, such as a lung tumour that is causing shortness of breath.
- Relieve Pain by reducing the size of the tumour.