How Does Radiation Therapy Work?

Radiation therapy is a localized cancer treatment that delivers high energy x-ray beams as directly as possible to the cancer with as little impact as possible to other organs and parts of the body.

Since cancer is an abnormal growth of cells and radiation works on a cellular level to destroy the cancerous cells that are actively dividing, radiation treatment can be used for cancer treatments. Radiation therapy will do one of two things: 

  1. stop the cell from dividing or 
  2. kill the cell completely.

Normal cells have the ability to repair themselves, unlike cancer cells. Also, cancer cells grow and divide faster than normal cells. When using radiation therapy for cancer treatment, special radiation technology is used to send high doses of radiation to the cancerous cells.

Many radiation cancer treatments are given in small, daily doses. It can take days or weeks of treatment before cancer cells start to die. Once the process begins, cancer cells continue dying for weeks or months after radiation therapy ends while normal cells will repair themselves and continue to grow.