What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy uses beams of energy to destroy cancer cells. It is used to treat many types of cancer. This video explains how radiation therapy works, how it is given and what to expect during your treatments.
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Canadian Cancer Society logo appears above the video title, “What is radiation therapy?”. This video is part of the Cancer Basics series.
Narrator: What is radiation therapy?
A person who has been diagnosed with cancer appears on screen. A machine to deliver radiation therapy appears beside him. The screen zooms in on the machine.
Narrator: If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you may be offered radiation therapy.
This might make you nervous, but radiation therapy — sometimes just called radiation — is a common treatment for many types of cancer. It uses beams of energy to destroy cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is most often used with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy. But it can also be used alone to treat cancer.
The narrator, a radiation therapist, appears. A doctor and other healthcare specialists appear on screen.
Narrator: I’m your radiation therapist. As part of your healthcare team, I work with your cancer doctor and other specialists to very carefully plan and give your radiation therapy treatments.
We decide how and exactly where in the body to give the radiation, as well as the schedule and dose you will receive.
A person appears on screen with a calendar beside them. As the radiation therapist talks about radiation schedules, days are marked off on the calendar.
Narrator: Usually, radiation therapy is given once a day for several weeks, with a break on weekends. Some treatment plans can last only a few days.
The radiation therapist appears on screen standing beside a hospital.
Narrator: Radiation therapy is given in a special department of a hospital or cancer centre. I’ll be there to give the radiation based on your treatment plan.
A clock appears and shows 15 minutes passing by.
Narrator: Your appointment each day will typically take 10 to 15 minutes, so you will most likely not need to stay overnight while receiving radiation treatments.
The radiation therapist uses the machine from the beginning of the video to start radiation therapy. The person who has been diagnosed with cancer and the machine are in the treatment room.
Narrator: Most of the time, I use a machine to direct radiation through the skin to reach the cancer cells. This is called external radiation therapy.
The figure of a person appears. It is enlarged to show that a substance has been put into the body to destroy cancer cells.
Narrator: Sometimes a substance that contains radiation is put right into the body to destroy cancer cells. This is called internal radiation therapy.
Yellow cells appear on screen. They are normal cells with a round shape. There is also a group of blue cells that are not round. These are cancer cells.
Narrator: No matter how radiation therapy is delivered, it damages the inside of cancer cells or their DNA so that they can’t grow and divide. Cancer cells can’t repair this damage, so they die.
The screen zooms in to the area with the blue cancer cells. The person who has been diagnosed with cancer appears beside it.
Narrator: Radiation can also damage healthy cells in the area where the cancer is being treated.
Although healthy cells can repair themselves over time, this damage, as well as any other treatments you are receiving, can cause side effects.
The person speaks to his healthcare team.
Narrator: Talk to me or your cancer doctor or other members of your healthcare team about the possible side effects of your cancer treatments.
Canadian Cancer Society logo appears above the contact number and website. The BMO bank logo appears below as a sponsor of the Cancer Basics videos.
Narrator: The Canadian Cancer Society is here to help. To find out more about radiation therapy, visit cancer.ca or call us at 1-888-939-3333.