DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic staff
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Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy most often gets its power from X-rays, but the power can also come from protons or other types of energy.
The term "radiation therapy" most often refers to external beam radiation therapy. During this type of radiation, the high-energy beams come from a machine outside of your body that aims the beams at a precise point on your body. During a different type of radiation treatment called brachytherapy (brak-e-THER-uh-pee), radiation is placed inside your body.
Radiation therapy damages cells by destroying the genetic material that controls how cells grow and divide. While both healthy and cancerous cells are damaged by radiation therapy, the goal of radiation therapy is to destroy as few normal, healthy cells as possible.
- Radiation therapy and you: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/radiation-therapy-and-you/allpages. Accessed May 10, 2011.
- External beam therapy (EBT). RadiologyInfo.org. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=ebt. Accessed May 10, 2011.