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Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy (or radiotherapy) is the in medical use of ionizing radiation as part of cancer treatment to control malignant cells. (not to be confused with radiology, the use of radiation in medical imaging and diagnosis)

Radiotherapy is commonly used for the treatment of tumours, usually as an adjunct to surgery and/or chemotherapy. The most common tumours treated with radiotherapy are gynaecological tumours[?], prostate cancer, bladder cancer and rectal cancer[?].

Radiation therapy can be given to the whole body, or (more commonly) just the localised area with most of the tumours. Although the actual treatment is painless, using radiation to tackle tumours inevitably leads to side effects. These can range from sore-redness over the affected area, nausea and vomiting, to the possibility of permanent organ damage.

Radiation therapy is given in sessions over a number of weeks or months, often in combination with chemotherapy. This is to allow healthy cells time to grow back, repairing damage inflicted by the radiation. Over this time the patient is given numerous tests to monitor tumour growth and radiation damage.

Occasionally radiotherapy is used as part of palliative treatment[?], where cure is not possible and the aim is for symptomatic relief[?].

Two main divisions of radiotherapy are external radiotherapy[?] and internal radiotherapy[?], the difference being that in external radiotherapy, the radiation source is from outside the body whereas in internal radiotherapy radioactive material is implanted within the body.

Further information:

See also: Cancer -- Chemotherapy

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