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External Beam Radiation Therapy


What do I need to know about 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.

How do I prepare for EBRT?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for EBRT. He may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your procedure. He will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure.

What will happen during EBRT?

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.

What are the risks of EBRT?

  • 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. 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.

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