Why radiotherapy is used
This page tells you about how radiotherapy is used to treat cancer. There is information about
Your doctor may prescribe radiotherapy to destroy a cancerous tumour. It is one of the most important treatments to help cure cancer. Doctors may call this radical radiotherapy. The length of your course of treatment depends on where in your body you need treatment and the size and type of the cancer. Curative radiotherapy may be combined with other treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or biological therapy.
Radiotherapy is sometimes given before surgery to shrink a tumour and so make it easier to remove. Or it can reduce the risk of the cancer spreading during surgery. This type of treatment is often used for particular cancers, such as rectal cancer. It is called neoadjuvant treatment or preoperative radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy can also be given as neoadjuvant treatment, either alone or with radiotherapy. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy given together is called chemoradiation.
Radiotherapy after surgery is given to kill off any remaining cancer cells after the operation. It aims to lower the risk of the cancer coming back. It is often used in breast cancer, rectal cancer, and cancers of the head and neck area. It is called adjuvant treatment or postoperative radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy can also be given as adjuvant treatment, either alone or with radiotherapy. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy given together is called chemoradiation.
Total body irradiation (TBI) is a type of radiotherapy sometimes given to patients having a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant, for example for some types of leukaemia or lymphoma. Radiation is given to the whole body to destroy the bone marrow cells. You are then given new bone marrow either from
- A donor
- Or marrow taken from you before your radiotherapy
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