Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses a controlled dose of radiation to kill cancer cells or damage them so they cannot grow, multiply or spread. If you are having radiation therapy, this information will help you understand how it works, what to expect during and after treatment, and how to manage side effects.

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Print these questions


  • Why do I need radiation therapy?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of radiation therapy for me?
  • How successful is radiation therapy for the type of cancer I have?
  • What kind of radiation therapy will I have?
  • Will it be my only treatment, or will I have other treatments?
  • How long will treatment take? How will it be given?
  • Where can I have this treatment? Will I have to travel away from home?
  • Will I have radiation therapy as an inpatient or outpatient?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • Are there any out-of-pocket expenses not covered by Medicare or my private health cover? Can the cost be reduced if I can’t afford it?
  • Are there clinical guidelines you are following?
  • Are there any clinical trials or research studies I could join?

Side effects

  • What are the risks and possible side effects of radiation therapy?
  • Will any side effects be long-term or short-term?
  • Will I be radioactive? Will my partner be affected?
  • Is it safe to have sex during the course of radiation therapy?
  • Will radiation therapy interact with any other medicines or vitamins I take?
  • Can I work, drive and do my normal activities while having treatment?
  • Are there any complementary therapies that might help me?
  • Should I change my diet or physical activity during or after treatment?
  • Who should I contact if I have a problem during treatment? Who is my after-hours contact?

After treatment

  • How often will I need check-ups after treatment?
  • If the cancer returns, how will I know? What treatments could I have?

Find information on radiation therapy in nine different languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Greek and more.

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