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Radiation therapy works by destroying cancerous cells and preventing them from growing.

​​​Why is radiation used to treat cancer? What are the side effects?

“Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to destroy or damage the DNA inside cancerous cells and prevent them from growing,” says Snehal Desai, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. “Radiation is used to treat a variety of cancers. It can be given alone or in combination with other treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy.”

Dr. Desai says that more than 50 percent of cancer patients may need radiation during their treatment.

“The therapy prescribed by a radiation oncologist depends on multiple factors including the type, stage and location of cancer, as well as a patient’s overall health and ability to tolerate treatment,” Dr. Desai says. “Most cancer patients are treated with external-beam radiation where the radiation is delivered similar to a chest X-ray.”

He says Kelsey-Seybold has advanced technology for radiation therapy.

“We have the Varian TrueBeamTM that allows us to safely deliver radiation treatments quickly for a more comfortable experience for the patient,” he says. “This faster delivery also reduces the chance of tumor motion during treatment, which helps protect nearby healthy tissue.”

Dr. Desai says side effects vary from patient to patient and depend on the part of the body treated as well as the radiation dose.

“Common side effects include fatigue and skin changes,” he says. “During radiation treatments, we see our patients on a weekly basis to help manage side effects early.”

Philosophy of care
“I believe in a patient-focused, team approach to develop a radiation treatment plan unique to each patient’s diagnosis. The goal is to maximize benefits and minimize side effects,” concludes Dr. Desai.