Three experts from Fox Chase Cancer Center's Department of Radiation Oncology answer frequently asked questions about radiation therapy.
Q: What is the goal of radiation therapy with respect to treating cancer?
A: For most patients, the goal is to get rid of the cancer completely and, hopefully, prevent it from returning. But for those whose cancer has spread, radiation may be used palliatively, to make symptoms better and improve quality of life, knowing that we likely will not cure the cancer.
Q: Tell me about external vs. internal radiation.
A: External radiation therapy is the most common type used. High-energy X-rays can treat cancers of the lung, head and neck, prostate, breast, uterus, gastrointestinal tract, brain, and many others. Internal radiation therapy, or implant, is most often used for prostate cancer, gynecological cancers (endometrial or cervical), and certain breast cancers.
Q: Can radiation therapy alone cure me?
A: In some cases, radiation therapy alone can be used to cure patients. Other times, multiple treatment types are necessary together (for example, surgery and radiation for certain breast cancers).