Recent Blog Articles

Radiation Therapy

December 6, 2019

What Is It?

Radiation therapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses an intense form of energy, called ionizing radiation, to damage or destroy cancer cells. Ionizing radiation harms cancer cells' genetic material. This kills the cells or interferes with their ability to grow and multiply. Normal cells near a tumor can be damaged as well. However, normal cells can repair any damaged genetic material, so they often recover and survive. Cancer cells generally can't make such repairs, so they die.

Radiation therapy can be given externally in the form of x-ray beams, gamma rays, or beams of subatomic particles such as protons. Treatment with external radiation is usually painless and takes five to 15 minutes per session. The number of treatments varies for each person. In some cases, therapy may take place almost every day for several weeks.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.