Ten Key Points about External Radiation Therapy

  • Radiation is a local, targeted therapy designed to kill cancer cells that may still exist after surgery. Radiation is given to the area where the cancer started or to another part of the body to which the cancer spread.
  • The actual delivery of radiation treatment is painless. But the radiation itself may cause some discomfort over time.
  • External radiation treatment, the most common kind of radiation therapy, does not make you radioactive.
  • Treatment is usually given 5 days a week for up to 7 weeks. Sometimes radiation may be given twice a day for 1 week.
  • Since the daily appointments usually take about 30 minutes, you’ll most likely be able to follow most of your normal routine during treatment.
  • Radiation will not make you lose your hair, unless radiation is given to your head.
  • In the area where you are receiving radiation, your skin can turn pink, red, or tan, and may be sensitive and irritated. Creams and other medicines can soothe these symptoms.
  • During your treatment course, you may feel tired. This feeling can last for a few weeks—even months—after treatment ends.
  • Most radiation side effects are temporary.
  • Radiation therapy can significantly decrease the risk of cancer returning after surgery.

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