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Last updated: 08/13/2009

Definition

Radiation therapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses high energy radiation to kill cancer cells and reduce the size of tumors. The source of radiation can be X-rays, gamma rays, atomic particles or other source of ionizing radiation....

Radiation therapy can be applied from a source outside of the body directed at a tumor. Alternatively, small amounts of radioactive substance can be placed within or near a tumor, a process sometimes called brachytherapy.
 
Brachytherapy devices emit radiation in a small, localized area to destroy nearby cancer cells. Systemic radiation therapy, the third form of radiation therapy, involves the infusion of a radioactive substance into the bloodstream that permeates most places in the body. An example of systemic therapy is the use of iodine 131 to treat thyroid cancer.


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