Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School


What It's Used For

Radiation therapy is used to treat many types of cancer, including cancer of the lung, breast, prostate, testicles, and brain.

When a tumor is going to be removed surgically, radiation can shrink it. This reduces the amount of normal tissue that needs to be removed near the tumor. When cancer has spread, radiation therapy can be combined with chemotherapy or surgery to improve the chance of a cure. It can also be used to treat tumors blocking organs or tissues, such as a kidney or the spinal cord.

Radiation therapy can also reduce pain and other symptoms that may occur when cancer spreads. It may lessen the chances of a fracture if cancer has spread to the bones.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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