Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells (tumors). Radiation damages the genetic material of cells in the area being treated, leaving the cells unable to continue to grow. Although radiation damages normal cells as well as cancer cells, the normal cells usually can repair themselves and function, while the cancer cells cannot.
Radiation therapy is used for many different types of cancers, such as bladder cancer, endometrial cancer, and prostate cancer.
What types of radiation therapy are there?
Radiation is delivered in one of two ways.
- External Beam Radiation Therapy, uses a beam of radiation directed at the tumor. After the area of cancer is identified, a small ink tattoo is fixed on the skin over the area of cancer so that the radiation beam can be focused on the same spot for each treatment. It is necessary to focus the radiation beam on the cancer cells and to shield nearby healthy tissue from the radiation. External Beam Radiation Therapy is usually done in multiple
treatments, usually once a day for 5 or 6 days a week for several weeks.
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- Brachytherapy, or internal radiation therapy, inserts radioactive material directly into or near the tumor. The radioactive material is either later removed or left in place. Removable radiation sources are inserted with needles or small thin tubes. Sometimes the material is left in your body (permanent brachytherapy). In this case, small beads containing the radioactive material are inserted into the tumor. The beads release radiation at the site of the
tumor over a few days or weeks, after which they are no longer radioactive.
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