External beam radiation therapy (EBRT)

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) uses a radiation machine (usually a linear accelerator) to direct high-energy radiation beams at the cancer. The radiation is precisely targeted at the parts of the body with cancer. Treatment is carefully planned to do as little harm as possible to healthy tissues.

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The radiation therapy machine

You will lie on a treatment table or “couch” under the machine (see illustration below). The machine does not touch you, but it may rotate around you to deliver radiation beams to the area containing the cancer from different directions. This allows the radiation to be more precisely targeted at the cancer and limits the radiation to surrounding normal tissues. You won’t be able to see or feel the radiation. Once the machine is switched off, it no longer gives off radiation.

Linear accelerator

Linear accelerator

This is a general illustration of a linear accelerator (linac), the most common type of radiation therapy machine. The machine used for your treatment may look different. There may also be imaging devices on or near the linear accelerator, which help position you accurately on the couch.


The treatment course

Your radiation oncologist will work out the total dose needed to treat the cancer. In most cases, this will then be divided into several smaller doses called fractions that are given on different days. Each session lasts about 15–25 minutes, with the treatment itself taking only a few minutes.

A course of treatment refers to the total number of sessions of radiation therapy you receive. How long you need to have radiation therapy will vary, depending on the type of cancer, the total dose required, the location of the cancer and the aim of treatment.

In general, higher total doses of radiation are used for curative treatment. A fraction of the dose will be given each day, Monday to Friday, for 3–8 weeks. Dividing the total dose into separate treatment sessions with weekend rest breaks allows the healthy cells to recover. Occasionally, the radiation oncologist may recommend two treatments per day, with several hours between the sessions.

If you are having radiation therapy as palliative treatment to relieve symptoms, you may have between one and 10 treatment sessions.

Each fraction of radiation causes a little more damage to cancer cells, so it’s important to try to attend all of your scheduled sessions. This helps ensure you receive the amount of radiation needed to eventually kill the cancer cells or relieve symptoms. When you miss sessions, cancer cells have more time to repair the damage, so your radiation therapy may not work as well. Occasionally, treatment breaks are hard to avoid, and you may have extra sessions to make up for the missed sessions.


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To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

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  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

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  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in December 2019
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