How Does Radiation Work?

Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: January 26, 2012

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Question

How can radiation kill cancer cells and not cause more cancer to develop?

Answer

Michael Corradetti, MD, PhD, Radiation Oncology Resident at Penn Medicine, responds:

Radiation treatments kill cancer cells primarily via damage to their DNA. A variety of technologies have been developed to deliver radiation therapies that maximize the dose to the tumor while sparing normal tissue. Unfortunately, there is no technology that limits the dose exclusively to the tumor; as a result, any radiation therapy comes with a small (but real) risk of a secondary malignancy.

Learn more about radiation therapy on OncoLink.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Focus on Gynecologic Cancers transcript.


News
Addition of radiation therapy to rectal, prostate cancer treatments studied

Nov 1, 2010 - Radiation therapy appears to reduce recurrence rates when added to surgical treatment of rectal cancer and to increase survival when added to medical management of prostate cancer, and a highly targeted radiation approach may reduce gastrointestinal complications associated with prostate cancer treatment, according to three studies to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology, held from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4 in San Diego.



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