If you've seen a dentist or been treated for a broken bone, you've experienced radiation firsthand. In everyday life, radiation in the form of X-rays is used to create images of areas of the body that doctors can't see, such as the inside of a tooth or the interior of the chest cavity.
In much higher doses, radiation is used to treat cancer. Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy, irradiation, or X-ray therapy) works by preventing cells from growing or reproducing, and by destroying them. But parents whose kids need radiation therapy — one of the most common treatments for childhood cancer — often have many questions and concerns about it.
About Radiation Therapy
In radiation therapy, high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, or fast-moving subatomic particles (called particle or proton beam therapy) is used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Some types of childhood cancer treated with radiation therapy include brain tumors, Wilms tumor, and head and neck cancers.
Besides destroying cancer cells, radiation therapy can also harm normal cells. Normal cells are more likely to recover from its effects, though, and your child's health care team will take extensive measures to carefully monitor radiation doses to protect healthy tissue.
Because every case is different, each child's cancer treatment will also be unique. Some kids receive radiation therapy alone, while others need both radiation and chemotherapy (the use of medicines to destroy cancer cells). And some kids require radiation therapy and surgery to remove tumors or cancerous areas.
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