Radiotherapy utilization rates for cancer vary widely internationally. It has previously been suggested that approximately 50% of all cancer patients should receive radiation. Radiotherapy is a form of treatment that uses high-energy rays to cure diseases. It can be administered both externally and internally. External radiotherapy involves aiming high-energy x-rays at target area, i.e. the affected area, via a machine. Internal radiotherapy involves placement of radioactive material inside the body, with intent to treat it from within.
Radiotherapy works by destroying cancer cells in the area that’s being treated. Normal cells can also be damaged by radiotherapy, which may cause side effects. Cancer cells cannot repair themselves after radiotherapy, but normal cells usually can.
You can be given radiotherapy for different reasons. Doctors can give radiotherapy to try and destroy a tumour and cure the cancer. This is called curative treatment. It may be used with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy. If it’s not possible to cure the cancer, doctors may try the process of radiotherapy to help relieve the symptoms that you may have. This is called palliative treatment.