Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation (like X-rays or gamma rays) to kill cancer cells or slow their growth.
Radiation damages a cell’s DNA to the point that it will stop dividing or die. Radiation can affect both normal and tumor cells, but as radiation therapy has evolved treatment options have emerged to allow more precise targeting of cancer cells.
Depending on a patient’s tumor location, size, and type, radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination with surgery. Typically, it is used as a first-line treatment for tumors that cannot be removed with surgery, as a supplement to surgery, or as a second-line treatment to treat residual or recurrent tumors.
At UCSF, a radiation oncologist will develop individual treatment plans for each patient, which include details like the exact dose of radiation, the size and shape of the radiation beams, and the number of treatments. With one of the largest and most versatile radiation oncology programs on the west coast, UCSF offers a number of radiation therapies including the latest technologies for targeting tumors while sparing healthy tissue.
Select one of the following for an overview of the procedure.