uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells, thereby shrinking the cancer growth. The objective of radiation therapy is to maximize the probability of cure with a minimum of side effects. Radiation therapy is considered a local treatment because only the cancer cells in the area of the body where the radiation is delivered are killed.
If cancer exists outside the radiation field, those cancer cells are not affected by the radiation. Radiation therapy is used alone or in combination with surgery and chemotherapy for the treatment of head and neck cancers. Therefore, it is important for patients with cancers of the head and neck to be treated by physicians at a specialty medical center who are part of a multidisciplinary team.
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The two most common ways in which radiation therapy is delivered are externally, through external beam radiation therapy and internally, by brachytherapy. External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) involves the delivery of radiation via a machine that aims x-rays at the body.
During brachytherapy, or interstital implantation, a physician places small pellets or seeds of radioactive material directly into the cancer. Most patients receive one or the other kind of radiation and some patients receive both.
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