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Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to treat disease. It can be given both externally and internally.
- External radiotherapy aims high-energy x-rays at the affected area using a large machine.
- Internal radiotherapy involves having radioactive material placed inside the body.
Radiotherapy works by destroying cancer cells in the area that’s being treated. Normal cells can also be damaged by radiotherapy, which may cause side effects. Cancer cells cannot repair themselves after radiotherapy, but normal cells usually can.
You can be given radiotherapy for different reasons. Doctors can give radiotherapy to try and destroy a tumour and cure the cancer. This is called curative treatment. It may be used with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy.
If it’s not possible to cure the cancer, doctors may give you radiotherapy to help relieve symptoms you have. This is called palliative treatment.
Radiotherapy is sometimes given with chemotherapy. This is called chemoradiation.
The type of radiotherapy you’re given will depend on the type of cancer you have and your individual situation.