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External Beam Radiation Therapy


External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is used to kill cancer cells or stop them from spreading. EBRT is also used to decrease pain caused by bone metastasis. Radiation is a very strong type of x-ray.


The week before your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.
  • Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your healthcare provider. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your provider if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • You may be given dye to help your tissues and organs show up clearly on the monitor. Tell a healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • You may need blood or urine tests before your procedure. You may also need a biopsy, x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI. Talk to your healthcare provider about these or other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location for each test.

The night before your procedure:

  • You may be given medicine to help you sleep.
  • Ask healthcare providers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your procedure:

  • Ask your healthcare provider before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives healthcare providers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Healthcare providers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell healthcare providers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.


What will happen:

You may be given medicine to help you stay calm and relaxed. Your healthcare provider will position your body for the procedure. Pillows or supports may be used to hold you in place. Shields may be put over you to block radiation exposure to other parts of your body. A machine will send a beam of radiation to the area of the cancer. You should not feel any pain, heat, or tingling during the procedure. Your healthcare provider will stay nearby in a room and you will be able to talk to him.

After your procedure:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. You will be monitored closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. You will then be able to go home or be taken to your hospital room.


  • You cannot make it to your procedure.
  • You have a fever.
  • You get a cold or the flu.
  • You have questions or concerns about your procedure.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • Your symptoms get worse.


  • Normal cells may be damaged by the radiation. This can cause your tissues or organs to stop working properly. Bone marrow cells may be damaged and increase your risk for infections and fatigue. High doses of radiation can weaken your bones and increase your risk for a fracture. Your skin may become red and dry. It may also bleed, flake off, or start to peel.
  • You may have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. You may lose your hair. Your pain may not go away for days or weeks, or it may return. You may need more treatment. You may get a blood clot in your limb. This may become life-threatening.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about External Beam Radiation Therapy (Precare)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.