Some cancers require radiation as part of your treatment.  If this is indicated for you, we will explain why this is an option, what you can expect during radiation therapy treatments, and how to manage side effects during your treatment. We collaborate with a network of expert radiation oncologists around New Mexico and Colorado to enable you to receive radiation close to your home and family.

Sometimes, radiation therapy is the only kind of cancer treatment people need. Sometimes radiation is combined with chemotherapy to help the cells respond more completely to the radiation.

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high doses of energy (similar to the lower dose energy used in x-rays) to kill cancer cells and stop them from spreading. Radiation therapy can be used to cure cancer by stopping its growth as well as reduce the symptoms of cancer by shrinking tumors and controlling pain.

Radiation therapy can be given using different techniques.  External beam radiation is where a machine outside your body aims radiation at cancer cells. This is generally given every day over a few weeks.  Internal beam radiation (also known as brachytherapy) is where a radiation source is put closer to areas at risk (for example placed intravaginally). This is generally given in three to five short treatments. Sometimes patients require both forms of radiation therapy.  New techniques, such as IMRT and 3-D conformal radiation therapy allow your doctor to aim higher doses of radiation at your cancer while reducing the radiation to nearby healthy tissue with the assistance of technology.

Radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells right away. It takes days or weeks of treatment before cancer cells start to die. Cancer cells continue to die for weeks or months after radiation therapy ends.

Radiation not only kills and slows the growth of cancer cells; it can also affect nearby healthy cells. The healthy cells almost always recover after treatment is over.  There are many techniques used to minimize the effects of radiation on your healthy normal tissues.

Many people with cancer need radiation therapy.
In fact, more than half (about 60 percent) of people with cancer get radiation therapy.
Sometimes, radiation therapy is the only kind of cancer treatment people need.

Given in high doses, radiation kills or slows the growth of cancer cells. Radiation therapy is used to:

  • Treat cancer.Radiation can be used to cure, stop, or slow the growth of cancer.
  • Reduce symptoms.When a cure is not possible, radiation may be used to shrink cancer tumors in order to reduce pressure. Radiation therapy used in this way can treat problems such as pain, or it can prevent problems such as blindness or loss of bowel and bladder control.

Radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells right away. It takes days or weeks of treatment before cancer cells start to die. Then, cancer cells keep dying for weeks or months after radiation therapy ends.

Radiation not only kills or slows the growth of cancer cells, it can also affect nearby healthy cells. The healthy cells almost always recover after treatment is over.

But sometimes people may have side effects that do not get better or are severe. Doctors try to protect healthy cells during treatment by:

  • Using as low a dose of radiation as possible.The radiation dose is balanced between being high enough to kill cancer cells yet low enough to limit damage to healthy cells.
  • Spreading out treatment over time.You may get radiation therapy once a day for several weeks or in smaller doses twice a day. Spreading out the radiation dose allows normal cells to recover while cancer cells die.
  • Aiming radiation at a precise part of your body.New techniques, such as IMRT and 3-D conformal radiation therapy, allow your doctor to aim higher doses of radiation at your cancer while reducing the radiation to nearby healthy tissue.
  • Using medicines.Some drugs can help protect certain parts of your body, such as the salivary glands that make saliva (spit).

RADIATION THERAPY AND YOU

“Radiation Therapy and You” is a book written for you – someone who is about to get or is now getting radiation therapy for cancer. People who are close to you may also find this book helpful.

This book is a guide that you can refer to throughout radiation therapy. It has facts about radiation therapy and its side effects.

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