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How Does Radiation Therapy Work?
In high doses, radiation can damage DNA. Cancer cells aren’t good at repairing this type of damage, so they are more vulnerable to radiation damage than are healthy cells. After a few radiation treatments, the cancer cells will begin to die, and they will continue dying for weeks to months after the therapy ends.

Why Radiation Therapy?
For certain cancers, radiation therapy will be the only treatment needed. But radiation therapy is most often used in conjunction with other treatments—for example, to treat any residual cancer cells left behind after surgery. Moreover, radiation therapy can also be used for cancers that are not appropriate for surgery because of their size or location.

How is Radiation Therapy Given?
Radiation therapy is usually delivered via a linear accelerator, a device that aims radiation at your pet’s cancer without touching your pet. This highly sophisticated equipment moves all around your pet’s body to deliver the radiation, precisely and accurately targeting the 3-D shape of the cancer while minimizing radiation to the surrounding healthy tissues.

Why is Anesthesia Necessary?
Radiation treatments are painless, but they require absolute precision and accuracy to target the cancer instead of nearby healthy tissue. This means that your pet has to remain perfectly still. The anesthesia will allow your pet to sleep comfortably through the treatments.

How Often Will my Pet Need to Get Radiation?
Some patients will need only three treatments or less, while others may require multiple treatments over the course of a few weeks. Your pet’s treatment schedule will be designed especially for your pet by your veterinary radiation oncologist based on the type of cancer involved and the treatment goals you have developed with your oncology care team.

What About Side Effects?
Radiation therapy is painless, but may cause your pet to feel fatigued for a few hours to a few days after the treatment. Radiation therapy is a local treatment, so most side effects are limited to the body area near the tumor. These side effects vary depending on the location of your pet’s cancer, but pets generally handle radiation therapy with fewer short- and long-term effects than human cancer patients typically experience.

Late side effects of radiation are rare complications that can show up months or even years after therapy ends and typically affect the tissues and organs in the vicinity of the treatment site.

Your care team will explain possible side effects before your pet’s treatment begins and will make every effort to minimize the risks of side effects.