Radiation therapy destroys cells either directly or by interfering with cell reproduction. Normal cells are able to recover from radiation damage better than cancer cells.
Used alone, radiation therapy can cure cancer in many cases. It is also used in combination with other treatments or therapies such as surgery or chemotherapy. It might be used to both reduce the size of tumours before surgery or to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery.
Radiation therapy is also used with many other conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
When cure is not possible, radiation therapy can also help improve symptoms such as pain, or extend the patient's length of life, or improve the quality of life for patients.
Radiation therapy is the principal treatment for various skin cancers (non-melanoma), cancers of the mouth, nasal cavity, pharynx and larynx, brain tumours, and many gynecological cancers, as well as lung and prostate cancer.
Radiation therapy is also used in combination with other treatments and therapies for breast, bowel, testicular, childhood, and bladder cancers, as well as Hodgkin's disease, leukemia and lymphomas as well as many other cancers.