Understanding the Technology

What is Radiation Therapy

Understanding the Technology

Radiation therapy is often used as a safe and effective way to treat cancer. This type of therapy uses various forms of high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells including X-rays, gamma rays and charged particles.

How Radiation Cancer Therapy Works

When a patient receives radiation therapy, the radiation destroys cancer cells by damaging their DNA (the molecules inside cells that carry genetic information and pass it on from one generation to the next). When the DNA of cancer cells are damaged beyond repair, the cells stop dividing or die.

The Risk to Normal Cells

In addition to damaging cancer cells, radiation therapy can also damage normal cells, which can lead to the patient experiencing side effects. The potential damage to normal cells is always taken into consideration when planning treatment with radiation therapy.

Although radiation affects both cancer and normal cells, it has a greater effect on the cancer cells. This is due to the fact that normal cells can repair themselves in a way cancer cells cannot. Our physician will carefully develop a treatment plan to deliver the radiation precisely to the tumor area while shielding as much of the surrounding, normal tissue as possible.

How Cancer Radiation Therapy Is Used

Our physician may recommend using radiation therapy in a number of different ways. Sometimes the goal is to cure the cancer. In this case, radiation therapy may be used to:

  • Destroy tumors that have not spread to other parts of the body to cure the patient of cancer.
  • Reduce the risk that cancer will return once the patient undergoes surgery or chemotherapy by killing small amounts of cancer that might remain.
  • Shrink the cancer before surgery.

In other cases, the goal is to reduce the symptoms caused by growing tumors and to improve the patient’s quality of life. When radiation therapy is administered for this purpose, it is called palliative care or palliation. In this type of case, radiation may be used to:

  • Shrink tumors that are interfering with the patient’s quality of life, such as a lung tumor that is causing shortness of breath.
  • Relieve pain by shrinking the size of a tumor

The Safety of Radiation Therapy

Many patients have concerns over the safety of radiation therapy. Radiation has been used successfully in the treatment of cancer for over 100 years. During that time, many advancements have been made to ensure this therapy is safe and effective. Before starting this therapy, the patient’s treatment will be carefully planned to focus on the cancer while avoiding healthy organs in the area.

At Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center, we utilize an all-digital treatment system called an Elekta Synergy linear accelerator. This enables us to deliver a faster, more accurate treatment with the least amount of radiation affecting healthy tissue. Using 3D imaging, we can accurately target tumors and store the precise locations for follow-up visits. This results in more aggressive treatment of tumors and less damage to surrounding tissue.

Your First Visit

During your first visit to our office, your doctor will meet with you to discuss your treatment in detail to ensure you understand the goals of your treatment. We encourage you to ask questions and bring up any concerns you may have. We are committed to always speaking honestly and openly with you. If you have any questions about your first visit or radiation therapy, please do not hesitate tocontact us as we are always available to speak with you.

*Some content provided by the American Society of Radiation Oncology and/or Elekta Oncology.

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