Radiation therapy or radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to damage or kill cancer cells by preventing them from growing and dividing. Radiation therapy, like surgery, is a local treatment used to eliminate or eradicate cancer that can be encompassed within a radiation field. Radiation therapy is not typically useful in eradicating cancer cells that have already spread to other parts of the body. Radiation therapy may be externally or internally delivered. External radiation delivers high-energy rays directly to the tumor site from a machine outside the body. Internal radiation, or brachytherapy, refers to the implantation of a small amount of radioactive material in or near the cancer.
Prior to the development of platinum-based chemotherapy, radiation therapy was frequently used in an effort to prevent ovarian cancer recurrences after surgery (adjuvant radiation therapy) or to treat recurrences. Currently, radiation therapy is sometimes used to treat a very localized recurrence, or as a treatment in women who cannot tolerate chemotherapy drugs. Radiation may also be used as palliative treatment (treatment of symptoms), when shrinking a tumor may provide symptom relief. In the vast majority of cases, however, the use of radiation therapy has been replaced by chemotherapy. Ongoing clinical trials are still trying to evaluate whether radiation therapy may have a place in the overall treatment of patients with advanced ovarian cancer.1
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