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Cancer Center

Augusta Health is a Duke Health Affiliate

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Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy or irradiation, is the use of various forms of penetrating energy (radiation) to safely and effectively destroy cancer cells. Radiation Oncologists are doctors specializing in the use of radiation to treat cancers.

How does it work?

Patient being positioned for radiation therapyRadiation Therapy targets cancer cells and damages their DNA, which disables them and keeps them from growing and reproducing. This causes the cancer cells to die and shrink. The objective of this treatment is to kill enough, or all, cancer cells in order to maximize the probability of curing the cancer, while minimizing side effects.

How can it be used to treat Cancer?

Radiation Therapy can be targeted to any part of the body, using different techniques. More than 50% of cancer patients are treated with a form of radiation therapy, often as part of the treatment plan, which can also include surgery and chemotherapy.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Will radiation therapy hurt?

No, you will not feel the radiation during treatment. X-rays are another form of radiation – you can't feel those either.

How long does treatment take?

The total time of your appointment is about 30 minutes, including the prep time and time for you to check out. Actual radiation treatment time varies, anywhere from 2-15 minutes.

Will I be radioactive after receiving treatment?

External beam radiation is delivered to the body in the treatment room and the radiation is eliminated when the machine is turned off. If you're receiving external beam radiation you are not radioactive at any time.

Brachytherapy, internal radiation therapy, uses implants placed in the body to deliver radiation to the cancer. During brachytherapy small amounts of radiation can be emitted.

Will I lose my hair?

Radiation therapy is a targeted treatment, which means it only affects the area that is being treated. Most people do not lose their hair as a side effect unless the cancer is in the head and they are receiving treatment targeted to the head.

Will I get sick to my stomach?

You will not feel ill during radiation treatment. Like hair loss, it is a targeted symptom so if you are receiving treatment to your abdomen you may feel some nausea 1-2 hours after treatment.

Can I drive to and from my treatment?

Many people experience fatigue as a side effect of treatment so we recommend you have a driver bring you and take you home after treatment just in case. However, if you're able to drive yourself to your appointment you should be able to drive yourself home.

How often will I need treatment?

Most patients receive every day to treat the cancer. The duration and frequency of your treatment will be decided by your doctor because every patient and cancer is different. Most treatments take 2-10 weeks.