Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy most often uses X-rays, but protons or other types of energy also can be used.

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. Normal cells can often repair much of the damage caused by radiation.

Mayo Clinic's approach

July 07, 2017
  1. Radiation therapy and you: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/radiation-therapy-and-you. Accessed April 2, 2017.
  2. External beam therapy (EBT). RadiologyInfo.org. https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=ebt. Accessed April 2, 2017.
  3. Gunderson LL, et al. Intensity-modulated and image-guided radiation therapy. In: Clinical Radiation Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 4, 2017.
  4. Riggin ER. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 31, 2017.