Radiation Therapy

Radiation is a type of energy that travels through the air as waves. Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.

If you are offered radiation treatment you will:

  1. Meet with a Radiation Oncologist and be asked to sign a treatment consent form
  2. Be booked for a "Radiation Planning" visit with a Radiation Therapist. At this visit you will have a CT scan which is used to design your treatment plan
  3. Be give between 1 and 40 treatments depending on your plan. They are booked daily from Monday to Friday
  4. Have a schedule printed for you on your first treatment day with all of your visits, dates and times

Radiation Facts

  • Radiation does not hurt, it's like getting an X-Ray
  • Radiation will treat a specific area of your body. Cells nearby may also be affected by the radiation. You will only have side effects in the area that is treatment
  • You will not be radioactive afterwards; you can have normal contact with friends and family
  • Treatments are short, and often take less than 20 minutes
  • You will get to meet with your Radiation Oncologist or Oncology Nurse once a week during your treatment

Radiation Websites:

Acs Rads
Click the picture above to open the American Cancer Society handout on Radiation Therapy (opens in new window)

American Cancer Society - Radiation Therapy

Common Questions About Radiation Therapy

How does radiation therapy work?

Radiation therapy is an effective treatment because it makes cancer cells unable to grow and repair themselves. It is a powerful treatment that affects only the part of the body being treated. It can also affect healthy cells that the radiation passes through, causing them to be damaged. This damage to healthy cells is usually temporary, but may cause side effects.

Does radiation treatment use radioactive substances?

The cancer centre uses equipment called linear accelerators to provide radiation therapy treatment. Similar to turning a light switch on and off, linear accelerators only give off radiation when they are turned on and are not radioactive when they are turned off. The cancer centre also offers specialized radiation treatment that uses radioactive substances. This is called high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy.

How is radiation therapy treatment given?

Radiation therapy is provided in a number of treatment sessions ranging from a single treatment up to 35 or more treatments. The treatment is usually given daily (Monday to Friday) in an appointment that ranges from 15 to 30 minutes in length.

Who receives radiation therapy?

At your consultation appointment, your care team will work with you to determine your best treatment plan. Radiation therapy may be offered as a treatment option.

Where do you receive radiation therapy?

You will receive your treatments in the radiation treatment suite on the third floor (main floor) of the cancer centre at GRH's KW Campus at 835 King Street West in Kitchener.

How long does radiation treatment last?

Most of your 15 to 30 minute appointment is spent positioning you for the radiation treatment. The actual time the radiation machine is on ranges from 30 seconds to a few minutes.

Can my family member come into the radiation treatment suite with me?

Family members may request to view the treatment room and machine during one of the scheduled appointments before your treatment. No one other than the patient and staff are allowed inside the treatment room.

Are there any side effects?

Radiation treatment destroys cancer cells, but can also affect normal healthy cells in the treatment area. Side effects are related to the area being treated. Some people have no, to very few side effects, while others have more. Once you and your care team have determined your treatment plan, the doctor, nurse and radiation therapist will review any potential side effects with you and give you advice on how to manage them.