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Radiation therapy is a powerful treatment tool that can target and destroy cancer cells in a specific area of the body. More than half of cancer patients undergo radiation treatments for one of the following purposes:
People with incurable cancer may also have radiation therapy. “Palliative radiation” shrinks tumors that cause pain, breathing trouble or other problems
Radiation therapy may be the only treatment you need, or it may be combined with other treatments such as chemotherapy or cancer surgery.
Cancer-killing radiation is a form of energy that exists as waves or charged particles. These include X-rays, gamma rays, electron beams and protons.
Radiation therapy is given in one of three ways and the type of radiation therapy you’ll need depends on several factors. These include the size and location of your tumor, what organs are near the tumor and whether you also need other cancer treatments.
External beam radiation uses a machine to send radiation through your body and into the tumor. External beam radiation can treat a broad range of cancers, including brain and spine tumors, and cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, bladder, liver and bones. Mercy offers most forms of external radiation. These include:
Internal radiation, also known as brachytherapy, uses a radioactive implant. It’s placed inside your body, in or near the tumor. Brachytherapy is often used to treat head and neck cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, prostate cancer and eye cancer.
Systemic radiation uses radioactive drugs to treat certain tumors, including thyroid cancer and metastatic prostate cancer.
Like any medical treatment, radiation therapy poses potential risks. These include:
If your doctor recommends you have radiation therapy, it’s because he or she believes the benefits outweigh the risks. Your care team will carefully plan your treatments to ensure they are safe and effective. If you have questions or concerns about radiation therapy, please talk to one of your Mercy caregivers.
At Mercy, we offer comprehensive services to diagnose and treat a full range of conditions, including: