Fall 2005
ASK THE EXPERT : Radiation Therapy
Paul Berger, MD

Radiation Therapy

My brother is being treated with radiation therapy for cancer. I'd like to have a better understanding of what radiation therapy does.

Bridgeport Hospital Chief of Radiation Medicine Paul Berger, MD, responds:

Radiation therapy is the carefully targeted use of high-energy radiation to treat cancer. A radiation oncologist may use radiation to cure cancer or to relieve a cancer patient's pain.

Radiation therapy works by disrupting a cancer cell's ability to reproduce so that when one cell divides into two cells, those two cells die.

Radiation therapy may be used in combination with other forms of treatment, such as surgery or chemotherapy (drugs). However, many cancer patients are treated with radiation alone. Prostate cancer is often treated in this manner.

Radiation may be delivered from outside the body by a machine such as a linear accelerator. It may also be delivered internally, by placing tiny radioactive pellets within the body, close to the tumor. The goal is to destroy the tumor while leaving normal tissue intact.