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What is photon beam radiotherapy?

The term photon beam radiotherapy is not commonly used now. But it is a name for the most common way to give external beam radiotherapy.

Photons are what deliver the energy in any electromagnetic radiation beam. This could be a beam of X-rays, gamma radiation, light or microwaves. All these are types of electromagnetic radiation. The more photons per second there are in a beam and the more energy each photon contains, the stronger the energy of the beam.

Doctors can create photon beams using radiotherapy machines such as linear accelerator radiotherapy machines (LINACs) or machines containing a radioactive metal called cobalt. Low energy radiotherapy machines produce photon beams that can treat cancers on the outside of the body, such as skin cancer. High energy radiotherapy machines produce beams that treat cancers deeper within the body.

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Updated: 11 July 2012