Treatment therapies that utilize radioactive sources are called radiotherapies, or radiation therapy. These sources use high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, and other sources, to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation damages both cancer cells and normal cells by damaging their genetic material, but normal cells are able to repair themselves and resume proper function. Because of the powerful properties of radiation, proper targeting of cancer cells is essential.
Radiotherapies offered at UAB can be either external or internal. External radiotherapies emit radiation from a source outside the body via a machine and include "External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)" and "stereotactic" procedures. Internal radiotherapies place radioactive materials inside the body. They may be placed in the body near cancer cells, using "brachytherapy", or they inject or infuse a radiolabeled substance into the body via "Radioisotope Therapy".
Radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy or surgery. Like all forms of cancer treatment, radiation therapy can have side effects. Possible side effects of treatment with radiation include temporary or permanent loss of hair in the area being treated, skin irritation, temporary change in skin color in the treated area, and fatigue. Other side effects are largely dependent on the area of the body that is treated.
Please click on any of the links below to learn more about treatment therapies offered at UAB.