Your Riverside oncologist and medical team may recommend radiation treatment. If this therapy is right for you, you may be referred to a radiation oncologist — a doctor who specializes in treating patients with radiation therapy. Your radiation oncologist will work with your primary doctor and other cancer specialists, such as the medical oncologists who oversee your care.
How radiation works
High doses of radiation are used to kill cancer cells. The radiation damages the genetic material within the cancer cells and limits their ability to divide and reproduce. When the cancer cells die, your body naturally eliminates them. About 60 percent of people with cancer get radiation therapy. Sometimes, radiation therapy is the only kind of cancer treatment used.
Radiation therapy is used to:
Kill cancer cells that have not spread to other parts of your body.
- Shrink tumors before surgery.
- Reduce the risk that your cancer will return after surgery or chemotherapy.
- Slow the growth of cancer cells.
- Shrink tumors to treat pain caused by pressure from tumors.
- Shrink tumors to prevent problems such as blindness, loss of bowel and bladder control and otherwise improve your quality of life
Radiation doesn't kill the cancer cells right away. It can take days or weeks of treatment before the cancer cells start to die. But once the cells begin to die, they will continue to die for weeks or months after your radiation treatments have ended.
Radiation treatments do not hurt, though the side effects can be unpleasant. While radiation kills cancer cells, it can also damage nearby healthy cells causing many of the side effects. Healthy cells can repair themselves in ways that cancer cells cannot, so your side effects are likely to be temporary.