Radiotherapy is the use of high energy x-rays to treat cancer.
Many people with cancer will have radiotherapy as part of their treatment.
Radiotherapy destroys cancer cells in the treated area by damaging its DNA. Although normal cells can also be damaged by the radiotherapy, they can usually repair themselves.
Radiotherapy treatment can cure some cancers and can also reduce the chance of a cancer coming back after surgery. It may be used to reduce cancer symptoms.
For some types of curative radiotherapy treatment, you may need to go to the hospital each weekday for between two and seven weeks. In this situation, a small dose of radiotherapy is given each time. This is because as well as damaging cancer cells, radiotherapy can also cause damage to healthy cells in the treatment area. If a very high dose of treatment was given all in one go, it could cause too much damage to the healthy cells, so small doses are given to allow them to recover in between.
Radiotherapy equipment is very complex and takes up a lot of space, as well as support from specially trained staff, so radiotherapy departments tend to be in the larger regional and teaching hospitals. Often you will have your initial cancer treatment (such as surgery) at your local hospital and will then be referred to your nearest specialist cancer treatment hospital for radiotherapy.