Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles to try to get rid of the cancer in your body. Over half of cancer patients get radiation treatment for cancer.
How Radiation Works
Radiation breaks up the DNA inside cancer cells. This destroys or damages cancer cells, or keeps them from growing. It can affect your normal cells, which can lead to side effects.
We can use radiation in combination with other cancer treatments. You may get radiation before, during, or after surgery.
Types of Radiation Treatment for Cancer
The amount and type of radiation you get will depend on a variety of factors:
- Cancer type
- Stage of cancer
- Your overall health
External radiation targets tumors from outside your body. We direct high-energy beams into your body to your cancer.
You will not feel any pain from the actual radiation treatment.
- Takes 5-30 minutes
- Usually takes several weeks
- Sometimes, you’ll get treatment twice a day
Internal radiation (brachytherapy) puts radioactive material inside your body. We place the radioactive material as close as possible to the cancer cells. This method concentrates radiation in a powerful way while saving healthy tissue.
We’ll insert the implants either in a body cavity or at the tumor location. They’ll release radiation over time.
The implants might stay in or get removed.
Specialized Radiation Treatment for Cancer at UVA
At UVA, we have radiation technology you won't find everywhere. These therapies target specific types of cancer and locations in your body, including:
- Radiation therapies for breast cancer
- Gamma Knife radiosurgery (shrinks brain tumors without surgery)
- 3D Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) (planning techniques)
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) (brain, lung, prostate)
- High-dose rate brachytherapy (prostate, gynecological, breast, and soft tissue sarcomas)
- TomoTherapy HD
To make sure we’ve accurately treated cancer, we use advanced CT or X-ray scans.
Radiation Side Effects
Radiation can affect healthy tissue in your body. To lessen this impact, we divide treatment into smaller doses over time.
Some radiation side effects are:
- Dry mouth
- Decreased taste
- Skin irritation
- Hair loss
- Lack of appetite
- Low blood cell counts
Learn how to manage cancer treatment side effects.
Talk to your doctor about fertility and issues of radiation safety. This depends on the type and amount of radiation you received.