Radiotherapy involves the use of high energy X-rays or electron beam to destroy the tumour while trying to preserve normal tissues as far as possible. Although X-rays also affect normal cells in the treated area, their ability to recover is usually better than tumour cells.
Radiotherapy can be categorised into internal and external radiation therapy. While generic information about external radiation therapy is included in this page, details about different internal radiation therapies are covered under pages for respective cancer types.
Radiotherapy can be used for:
- Curative therapy: offering the best chance of cure for patients who have early-stage lung cancer, early-stage prostate cancer, etc.
- Neoadjuvant treatment that also comprises chemotherapy: some patients require such treatment before surgery to facilitate surgical resection. This applies to patients with colorectal cancer, etc.
- Adjuvant treatment after surgery: using high energy X-ray beams to destroy potential residual tumour cells around the surgical wound to reduce the risk of recurrence. It can be used for treating breast cancer, stomach cancer, etc.
- Palliative treatment: using radiotherapy to relieve the discomfort caused by the cancer such as pain and bleeding. It is usually applied in the advanced stage of cancer.