Radiation therapy uses a controlled dose of radiation to kill cancer cells or damage them so they cannot grow, multiply or spread. The radiation is usually in the form of focused x-ray beams. It can also be in other forms such as electron beams, proton beams, or gamma rays from radioactive sources.
Radiation therapy is a localised treatment, which means it generally affects only the area being treated. Treatment is carefully planned to do as little harm as possible to the normal body tissue near the cancer.
Learn more about:
- Common questions about radiation therapy
- Your health care team
- Making treatment decisions
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT)
- Other types of internal radiation therapy
- Managing radiation therapy side effects
- Life after radiation therapy
- Questions for your doctor
- Radiation therapy for children
- Vdeo: What is radiation therapy?
You have to lie still during treatment, which can be difficult. I was allowed to bring music and listen to it during treatment. This helped me relax.
This information is for adults having radiation therapy, although much of it will also be relevant for children. Talk to your treatment team for specific information about radiation therapy for children. They can also provide you with age-appropriate support and resources.
You can also check out:
Video: What is radiation therapy?
Watch this short video to learn more about radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy).
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, and Dean, RANZCR Faculty of Radiation Oncology, QLD; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Patricia Hanley, Consumer; Prof Michael Hofman, Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Physician, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Leanne Hoy, Cancer Nurse Consultant, GenesisCare, VIC; Sharon King, Accredited Practising Dietitian, TAS; Dr Yoo Young (Dominique) Lee, Radiation Oncology Consultant, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Dr Wendy Phillips, Senior Medical Physicist, Department of Radiation Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Katrina Rech, Radiation Therapist and Quality Systems Manager, GenesisCare, SA. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment