In low doses, radiation is used for things like x-rays, to take pictures of the inside of your body.
Radiation for cancer treatment uses higher doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy works by damaging the cancer cells over and over again. The cancer cells don’t have time to repair themselves in between daily treatments, so eventually they die. Normal cells can repair and replace themselves between these daily sessions of radiation therapy.
Even though cancer cells and normal cells react differently to radiation, it’s very hard to destroy cancer cells without damaging some normal cells too. The goal of radiation therapy is to give enough radiation to destroy cancer cells in your body, but not so much that normal cells can’t recover.
Your radiation oncologist will develop a plan for you based on:
- the type of cancer
- where it is in your body
- the size of the tumour
- the stage and grade of the cancer
- possible side effects
- your general health
Radiation therapy for children
Both children and their families may have questions and concerns about radiation therapy for children. They want to know what to expect during and after treatment. Some radiation procedures can cause children and their families’ physical or emotional distress. Being prepared and knowing what to expect can reduce anxiety for both children and parents. Parents and caregivers can prepare and help children cope with radiation therapy by giving them explanations that are appropriate to their age and maturity.