Radiation Therapy


If you have stage III or stage IV rectal cancer, it’s likely that radiation therapy will be discussed. Radiation therapy is not often used to treat colon cancer, and more commonly used to treat rectal cancer. When used in colon cancer, it is used most often in the treatment of tumors that have grown next to or into other organs.

Radiation therapy may sometimes be used to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Radiation uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.

There are several types of radiation therapy. The intensity of radiation treatment, and the way radiation therapy is given, depends upon the type, location and stage of the cancer being treated.

Interventional Radiology is used when a tumor cannot be surgically removed. It generally involves no large incisions, less risk, less pain and shorter recovery times.

Types of Radiation Therapy

Types of radiation treatment can include:

External beam radiotherapy (EBRT)

Uses a machine outside of the body to direct radiation toward the cancer. This is the approach most commonly used.

Internal radiotherapy

Uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters and placed directly into or near the cancer.

Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT)

A form of external beam radiation therapy, using small beams of varying intensity.

Selective Internal Radiation (SIR-Spheres Microspheres or Theraspheres)

Tiny beads covered with radioactive material, and are injected into your liver to target liver metastases. They are a permanent implant for single-use only, providing a high-energy isotope to kill cancer cells in the liver from metastasized colorectal cancer.

Intraoperative-radiotherapy (IORT)

Another radiation option, given during surgery, for late-stage or recurrent cancer.

Radiofrequency ablation & cryosurgery

Radiofrequency ablation (using high intensity heat to destroy a tumor) or cryosurgery (the use of extreme cold to destroy a tumor) for patients whose tumors can’t be removed by surgery.

Radio surgery

Delivers a single high dose fraction of radiation, stereotactically directed to the liver.

Content medically-reviewed by members of the Fight Colorectal Cancer Medical Advisory Board, February 2014

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