Radiation has been an effective tool for treating cancer for more than 100 years. About two-thirds of all cancer patients will receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment.
Radiation therapy works by damaging the DNA within cancer cells and destroying their ability to reproduce. When the damaged cells are destroyed by radiation, the body naturally eliminates them. At times radiation therapy is the only treatment a patient needs, otehr times it is combined with other treatments, like surgery and chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is used two different ways:
- To cure cancer:
- Destroy tumors that have not spread to other body parts
- Reduce the risk that cancer will return after surgery or chemotherapy
- To reduce symptoms:
- Shrink tumors affecting quality of life, like a lung tumor that is causing shortness of breath
- Alleviate pain by reducing the size of a tumor