External beam radiation therapy treatment

Also known as: X-ray therapy

This treatment involves a machine, usually a linear accelerator located away from the body (similar to a CT or MRI scanner, but not as confining), that directs X-ray therapy at the tumor. External beam is a painless, non-invasive process administered once or twice per day, depending on the treatment protocol. The procedure is usually scheduled as a series of outpatient treatments, five days a week, for one to 10 weeks. The number of radiation treatments depends on the size, location and type of cancer; the intent of the treatment; a patient’s general health; and other medical treatments the patient may be receiving. Patients are given a break from treatment on weekends to give normal cells time to heal, thus reducing side effects. A patient receiving external beam radiation therapy is not radioactive or dangerous to others.