radiation therapy

Radiation Therapy: Types, Benefits, Side Effects

Table of Contents

What is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is a treatment for cancer and some non – cancerous conditions. It uses strong radiation to kill cancer cells and stop them from spreading.

Is radiation treatment painful?

Radiation treatment isn’t usually painful. It’s when high – energy rays are used to kill cancer cells. During the treatment, you won’t feel anything. But some people might feel uncomfortable because of side effects like skin irritation or feeling tired.

Types of radiation therapy?

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)

  • This type of radiation therapy uses a machine outside your body.
  • The machine sends strong X–rays or radiation to be cancer area.
  • You usually have several sessions, often every day for a few weeks.

Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy)

  • Also called brachytherapy, this treatment puts a radioactive source close to or inside the tumor.
  • The radiation source can be put in temporarily or permanently.
  • It gives a high dose of radiation to be cancer while protecting nearby healthy tissue.

Systemic Radiation Therapy

  • This therapy involves taking radioactive substances by mouth or injection.
  • These substances travel in your bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout your body.
  • It’s often used for certain types of thyroid and bone cancers that have spread.
  • These are the main types of radiation therapy. Each one has its way of working and is used depending on the type of cancer and your specific situation.

Radiation for cancer?

Skin Cancer

  • Radiation therapy can treat different types of skin cancer, like basal call carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
  • It’s a treatment that aims to kill cancer cells on the skin’s surface and is often successful.

Breast Cancer

  • After surgery to remove breast cancer, radiation therapy is used to kill any remaining cancer cells in the breast or nearby lymph nodes.
  • It’s an important part of breast cancer treatment and helps lower the chance of cancer coming back.

Prostate Cancer

  • Radiation therapy is a common treatment for prostate cancer, either by itself or with other treatments like surgery or hormone therapy.
  • It works well at targeting and destroying cancer cells in the prostate gland.

Lung Cancer

  • Radiation therapy is used to treat both non–small cell and small-cell lung cancer sometimes alongside surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.
  • It helps shrink tumors in the lungs and stops the cancer form growing, making people feel better.

Head and Neck Cancers

  • For cancers in the mouth, throat, larynx, and nasal cavity, radiation therapy is a common treatment.
  • It’s used to kill cancer cells in these areas and can help people keep their ability to talk and eat.

Gynecological Cancers

  • Radiation therapy is used to treat cancers like cervical, uterine, and vaginal cancer.
  • It’s given inside or outside the body to target caner cells in the pelvic area.

Brain Tumors

  • Both primary and metastatic brain tumors can be treated with radiation therapy.
  • It helps shrink tumors and control their growth, making people feel better and improving their life.

Bone Cancer

  • To reduce pain and shrink tumors in bone cancers like osteosarcoma, radiation therapy may be used.
  • It’s part of a treatment plan to manage bone cancer and make people feel better.

What are the benefits of radiation therapy?

  1. Effective Cancer Treatment: Radiation therapy is good at killing cancer cells or slowing down how fast they grow. It can treat many types of cancer at different stages, either by itself or with other treatments.
  2. Targeted Treatment: Radiation therapy can aim directly at cancer cells while trying not to hurt healthy ones nearby. This helps to lower side effects and make the treatment work better.
  3. Not Surgery: Radiation therapy doesn’t involve cutting you open like surgery does. It’s a treatment that doesn’t need any cuts or anesthesia, so it’s less painful and you can get better faster.
  4. Not Staying in the Hospital: You usually don’t have to stay in the hospital for radiation therapy. Most of the time, you can go home right after your treatment. This makes it easier for you to keep up with your normal life.
  5. Combining Treatments: radiation therapy can be used by itself or with other treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. Using different treatments together can make the treatment work better and help you get better faster.
  6. Less Pain: Radiation therapy can help to ease pain caused by cancer. It can also shrink tumors that are causing problems or making you uncomfortable. Better Chance of Getting Better. For lots of types of cancer, radiation therapy can help you live longer and even cure you. It’s good at improving how long you can live without the cancer coming back.
  7. Overall, radiation therapy is an important way to treat cancer. It helps kill cancer cells while trying to keep you as healthy as possible with fewer side effects.

Side effects of radiation therapy?

  1. Skin Problems: Radiation therapy can make your skin in the treated area red, swollen, or sensitive, it might feel itchy, dry, or even blistered. These skin problems usually go away after treatment.
  2. Feeling Tired: Many people feel very tired during radiation therapy. This tiredness can last for a while even after treatment ends. Resting and gentle exercise can help.
  3. Losing Hair: Depending on where you get radiation, you might lose hair in that area. This can be temporary or permanent, but it usually only happens where you’re treated.
  4. Upset Stomach: Radiation to certain areas, like your belly, can make you feel sick, vomit, or have diarrhea. Medicines and changing what you eat can help.
  5. Eating Changes: Radiation might change how hungry you feel. You might want to eat more or less than usual. It’s important to try to eat healthy during treatment.
  6. Long–Team Problems: Some side effects might not show up until months or years later. These can include scars, changes to your skin, or other health problems in the treated area.

How to protect your skin during radiation therapy?

  1. Keep it Clean: Wash the skin gently with mild soap and warm water every day. Pat it dry softly with a towel.
  2. Use Gentle Products: Avoid harsh soaps, lotions, or perfumes on the treated skin. Use gentle, fragrance–free products instead.
  3. Moisturize Often: Apply a gentle moisturizer to the treated area several times a day to keep it from getting dry or itching.
  4. Shield from the Sun: Protect the treated area from sunlight by covering it with clothing or wearing a hat or scarf. Sun can make the skin more sensitive.
  5. Stay Cool: Avoid using hot pads or hot water on the treated skin. Stick to cool or lukewarm temperatures instead.
  6. Be Gentle: Treat the skin gently and avoid rubbing or scratching it. Wear loose clothes to prevent irritation.
  7. Follow the Doctor’s Advice: Listen to what your doctor tells you about caring for your skin during treatment. They might have special instructions for you.
  8. By following these easy steps, you can take care of your skin during radiation therapy and help it stay healthy. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.

What is done in radiation therapy?

  1. Consultation: You’ll talk with a doctor who specializes in radiation therapy. They’ll check your medical history and may do tests to plan your treatment.
  2. Planning: Your medical team will make a plan for your treatment. They’ll decide how much radiation you need, where to aim it, and how many sessions you’ll have.
  3. Simulation: You’ll have scans to help plan where to aim the radiation. They might use special markers or molds to make sure you’re in the right position.
  4. Treatment Sessions: During treatment, you’ll lie on a table while a machine delivers the radiation. It’s quick and painless, usually only taking a few minutes.
  5. Monitoring: Your medical team will check on you during treatment to see how you’re doing. They might change your treatment plan if needed.
  6. Follow–Up: After treatment, you’ll have check–ups to make sure you’re recovering well. Your doctor will help you manage any side effects and get back to normal activities.

What foods to eat after radiation therapy?

Protein – rich Foods:

  • Eat lean meats like chicken turkey, or fish.
  • Include eggs beans, lentils, and tofu in your meals for protein. Fruits and


  • Enjoy a variety of colorful fruits like berries, apples, and oranges.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables such as leafy greens, carrots, and bell peppers.

Whole Grains

  • Choose whole grain options like brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat bread.
  • Oats, barley, and whole grain pasta are also good choices for fiber and nutrients.

Healthy Fats

  • Include sources of healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and seeds in your diet.
  • Use olive oil for cooking or as a salad dressing, and try to include fatty fish like salmon or trout.

Dairy or Dairy Alternatives

  • Drink milk, eat yogurt, or enjoy cheese as a source of calcium and vitamin D.
  • If you prefer plant–based options, choose fortified alternatives like almond milk or soy milk.


  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
  • Herbal teas, broth – based soups, and fruit – infused water can also help keep you hydrated.

Small, Frequent Meals

  • If you find it hard to eat large meals, try eating smaller meals more often.
  • Snack on nutritious foods like nuts, fruit, or yogurt between meals to keep your energy up.

Easy – to Swallow Foods

  • Choose softer foods like smoothies, yogurt, or mashed potatoes if swallowing is difficult.
  • Soups, pureed fruits, and well – cooked vegetables are also gentle options for your throat.


Can you hug someone after radiation?

Yes, you can hug someone after radiation therapy. Radiation doesn’t make you dangerous to others. But if your skin is sore or irritated where you had treatment, it might be uncomfortable to hug. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you’re not sure what’s best for you.

What is cost of radiation therapy?

Radiation therapy can cost a lot, ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. The price depends on the type of cancer, treatment length, and where you get treated. Insurance or financial aid might help cover some of these costs.

How many minutes is radiation therapy?

Radiation therapy sessions usually don’t take long. The actual treatment part lasts only a few minutes, usually around 10 to 30 minutes. But you might spend more time at the facility for setup and preparation before the treatment begins.

Can you sleep next to someone with radiation?

Yes, it’s safe to sleep next to someone who had radiation therapy. Radiation therapy doesn’t make them radioactive, so it won’t affect you. But if their skin is sore or irritated, it’s best to avoid direct contact or use a protective barrier.



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