Coastal Radiation Oncology Medical Group
world-class cancer care has a local address.

Customized Cancer Treatments

How Radiation Therapy Works on Cancer Cells

It is estimated that at least 50% of all cancer patients will need radiation sometime in the course of their treatment. Many of our patients ask how radiation therapy works to treat cancer cells.

Radiation is a local or regional form of cancer treatment. It is applied to the specific area of the body that contains a tumor, unlike chemotherapy which is given by injection or by mouth and travels throughout the entire body. Both radiation therapy and chemotherapy inhibit cell growth and reproduction, but usually do so at slightly different points within the cell’s reproductive cycles. For this reason, both therapies can be combined for a greater effect to treat some cancers.

Because radiation therapy is a localized treatment, it is less likely to cause general side effects (such as nausea, extreme fatigue, or decrease of blood cell counts) than chemotherapy, but has the disadvantage in that it cannot treat disease that has spread beyond the local area.

Note that radiation and chemotherapy do not compete against each other. Some diseases lend themselves well to treatment via radiation, others to chemotherapy, while others require a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. Surgery also is an important method of treatment and can be used before or after radiation or chemotherapy.

Find out more about what to expect from your radiation treatment and possible side effects here.

Here are a few of the radiation therapy technologies we use: