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Radiotherapy is the use of high energy x-rays and similar rays (such as electrons) to treat disease.
Since x-rays were discovered more than 100 years ago, radiation has been used more and more in medicine, both to help with the diagnosis of illness (by taking pictures with x-rays), and as a treatment for it (radiotherapy). While radiation has to be used very carefully in medicine, specialist doctors and radiographers have a lot of experience in its use.
Many people with cancer will have radiotherapy as part of their cancer treatment. It can be given either as:
Radiotherapy works by destroying cancer cells in the area that’s treated. Although normal cells can also be damaged by radiotherapy, they can usually repair themselves.
Radiotherapy can cure some cancers and can also reduce the chance of a cancer coming back after surgery|. It may also be used to control a cancer or to help improve the symptoms of it.
The benefits and possible side effects| of radiotherapy are discussed in detail in this section. Some people find that the side effects are very mild and that they mainly feel tired during their course of radiotherapy.
Content last reviewed: 1 July 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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