What is radiotherapy?
Many people with cancer will have radiotherapy as part of their treatment. This can be given either as external radiotherapy from outside the body using x-rays and similar rays (such as electrons) or from within the body as internal radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy treatment is often given with the aim of destroying a tumour and curing the cancer. This is described as curative or radical radiotherapy. Radiotherapy may be used to reduce cancer symptoms.
When is radiotherapy given?
Radiotherapy can be used on its own or given before or after surgery or chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. If radiotherapy and chemotherapy are given at the same time, this treatment is known as chemoradiation.
For some types of curative radiotherapy treatment, you may need to go to the hospital each weekday for between two and seven weeks. In this situation, a small dose of radiotherapy is given each time. This is because as well as damaging cancer cells, radiotherapy can also cause damage to healthy cells in the treatment area. If a very high dose of treatment is given in one go it can cause too much damage to the healthy cells, so small doses are given to allow them to recover in between.
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