Skip to content

    Cancer Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Radiation Therapy for Cancer Pain

    Radiation therapy is the use of X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation damages the genetic material of cells in the area being treated, leaving the cells unable to continue to grow. Although radiation damages normal cells as well as cancer cells, the normal cells can repair themselves. The cancer cells cannot.

    Radiation is also used to control pain by destroying a growing tumor that is invading or interfering with normal tissue, such as when a tumor presses on bones, nerves, or other organs. This may be done with radiation to part of the body or, in rare cases, with radiation to the whole body. Or you may be given a shot with a radioactive medicine.

    What To Expect After Treatment

    Radiation therapy can reduce pain by shrinking a tumor. And for cancer that has spread to the bones, walking and moving around may be less painful.1

    Why It Is Done

    Radiation therapy is used to control pain when a growing tumor invades or interferes with normal tissues, such as bones, nerves, or other organs.

    How Well It Works

    Radiation therapy can reduce pain. Often only a single treatment is needed to relieve pain.1

    Risks

    Side effects are common with radiation therapy and may depend on what area of the body receives radiation. Side effects typically go away after radiation therapy is over. Side effects can include:

    What To Think About

    While radiation therapy may not cure the cancer that is causing pain, it may reduce symptoms and slow the spread of the disease.

    Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.

    Citations

    1. National Cancer Institute (2013). Pain PDQ - Patient Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/pain/Patient.

    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical ReviewerMichael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology

    Current as ofNovember 14, 2014

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

    Today on WebMD

    man holding lung xray
    What you need to know.
    stem cells
    How they work for blood cancers.
     
    woman wearing pink ribbon
    Separate fact from fiction.
    Colorectal cancer cells
    Symptoms, screening tests, and more.
     
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    Blog
    what is your cancer risk
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    Video
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    prostate cancer overview
    SLIDESHOW
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
    Actor Michael Douglas
    Article