What is radiation therapy for cancer?

Radiation therapy offers you a noninvasive cancer treatment option. There's no pain during the procedure (though some people with physical limitations may experience some discomfort when positioned), very little noise and no time spent inside small, confining spaces, as with some technology.

At the start of each session, a radiation therapist will spend 5 to 15 minutes positioning you for treatment and setting up the equipment as instructed by the radiation oncologist. X-rays are taken to ensure that you are in the proper treatment position. Once you are in position, the therapist will enter the control room next door. From here, you are monitored throughout the treatment on a television screen and via voice communication. Should you have any concerns, or feel sick or uncomfortable, this may be expressed to the radiation therapist using the microphone located in the treatment room.

Depending on your individual circumstances, a course of radiation therapy usually runs five days a week for several weeks. Generally, a session runs for about an hour each day, with the actual radiation therapy session lasting 15 to 30 minutes.

You are seen at least once a week by your oncologist. During this appointment, the radiation oncologist evaluates your response to treatment. As needed, the amount of radiation administered to you is altered based on the radiation oncologist's observations. Blood work and X-rays may also be ordered to see how your body is responding to treatment. If your tumor shrinks significantly, another simulation may be required. This allows adjustments to be made to the treatment so that the rest of the tumor is destroyed while sparing even more normal tissue.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.