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How Radiation Therapy Works.

Radiation is invisible light (X-rays) with very high energy.  The energy is in millions of electron volts.  The energy affects the delicate gene of the cancer cells by causing electrons on the atoms of the molecules to be displaced.  The gene, thus changed will not be able to reproduce.  Radiation effects, on the rest of the cell (cytoplasm), are negligible.  Cancer cells must uncoil their genes during cell division (reproduction) making them more susceptible to being hit and damaged by the radiation.  Normal cells divide and reproduce much less often then growing cancerous tumors; the genes of normal cells, therefore, are less likely to be injured.  If normal cells are injured, they are usually repaired within six hours by “repair enzymes” in the cell.  For that reason, radiation therapy is given in carefully measured doses to minimize damage to normal cells and is given daily to allow normal cells to repair the radiation damage.  In some situations, radiation is given twice daily; there must be a six-hour interval between twice daily treatments for the protection of normal cells.
Radiation side effects, if they occur, are largely limited to the area being treated.  Radiation usually relieves or improves pain in the treatment area and does not cause pain in other areas of the body.  It can cause tanning of skin, mild fatigue and local side effects depending the organs being treated.

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