Radiotherapy may be used in the early stages of cancer or after it has started to spread. It is generally considered the most effective cancer treatment after surgery, but how well it works varies from person to person.
Types of radiotherapy
Radiotherapy can be given in several ways. Your doctors will recommend the best type for you.
The most common types are:
- external radiotherapy, where a machine is used to carefully aim beams of radiation at the cancer
- radiotherapy implants (brachytherapy), where small pieces of radioactive metal are (usually temporarily) placed inside your body near the cancer
- radiotherapy injections, capsules or drinks (radioisotope therapy), where you swallow a radioactive liquid, or have it injected into your blood
- intrabeam radiotherapy, where radiation is delivered directly at the tumour during breast cancer surgery (this treatment is not available at all NHS hospitals)
Radiotherapy is usually given in hospital. You can usually go home soon after external radiotherapy, but you may need to stay in hospital for a few days if you have implants or radioisotope therapy.
Most people have several treatment sessions, which are typically spread over the course of a few weeks.
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