What is Radiation Therapy?

Tasmanian Health Service - Northern Region

Radiation therapy is a localised treatment of cancer and some non-cancerous conditions using ionising radiation.

Radiation can destroy cancer cells located in the area of treatment. It can also damage normal healthy tissue within the treatment area, However, the body is able to repair these normal healthy cells and they regrow. The cancer cells can't repair themselves in the same way, so they are destroyed. For this reason, a treatment regime is usually broken up into many sessions of 4-5 times a week. This gives the healthy cells time to recover and continues to damage the cancer cells with every treatment. The type and stage of cancer will determine how much radiation needs to be given and for how many days. It is important to note that there are a lot of factors the radiation oncologist considers in deciding how much treatment to be prescribed. So it is possible that treatment times for similar cancer sites can vary.

For a detailed explanation of exactly how radiation destroys cancer cells, please refer to The Adelaide Radiotherapy Centre's website:


Radiation is not always used exclusively to treat cancer. It can be used:

  • to treat some benign or non cancerous conditions;
  • to cure cancer
  • in combination with other treatments, like surgery or chemotherapy to increase the probability of a positive result;
  • to stop cancer growth, or to shrink it; and
  • to relieve the pain or symptoms associated with the cancer.

Use the links below for more information on the treatment process.

  1. Simulation and Planning
  2. Treatment
  3. Side-effects
  4. Brachytherapy
  5. Radiation Therapy - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)