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Radiation therapy is mostly, though not always, used post-operatively to prevent recurrence of the cancer. It is a localized therapy, likened to a flashlight beam. As opposed to other treatments which run their course throughout the entire body, radiation therapy focuses on one target area.
Whatever the flashlight beam is trained on will be illuminated. Radiation therapy follows the same principle. This tends to limit the side effects to the area targeted for treatment, rather than the entire body.
This treatment can be combined with other types of treatments, including chemotherapy, hormone therapy and surgery. It is also often used to treat patients for pain with more advanced conditions, like stage 4 cancer.
Side effects of this form of treatment include fatigue, hair loss, digestive problems, dry mouth, irritated skin and muscle soreness. This is why stretching and physical therapy is very important following radiation therapy. It helps to counter the soreness and make the patient more comfortable and recover from the treatment faster.