If radiation can cause cancer, why do doctors use radiation to treat cancer?


If radiation can cause cancer, why do doctors use radiation to treat cancer?

In: Technology

Same reason fire can cook food, but also destroy thousands of acres of property.

It’s all about control of the resources. Location and amount.

Physicians use very specific, well-directed bursts of radiation to damage and kill tumors. But general radiation that the body is exposed to leads to damage as well as increased numbers of mutations, which can lead to cancer.

There is some risk of cancer down the line with medical radiation. But for many people the benefits outweigh the risks

It’s a difference of dosage. Much like anything in medicine, small quantities can be beneficial where a large quantity can kill you. Radiation therapy is in the same boat, low dose radiation can kill cancer cells where high doses of radiation can cause the cellular replication errors that cause cancer.

The types of radiation used in treating cancer are much more controlled than the general umbrella term of “radiation” connotes. Highly concentrated X-rays can stagnate growth of tumors and kill cancer cells without harming the good cells. Although radiation treatments do slightly increase the chance of a second cancer, that risk is relatively negligible. Here’s a [link](https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/radiation-therapy/understanding-radiation-therapy) to understand different types of radiation treatment and what they do.

Radiation damages DNA. This damage can cause cancers by slightly mutating the DNA of a specific cell so that it starts replicating out of control. On the other hand, if you massively overdose that same cell with radiation, it is more likely to die from having too much of its DNA damaged. If too much of its DNA is damaged it can’t actually replicate anymore.

**Please read this entire message**

Your submission has been removed for the following reason(s):

* ELI5 requires that you search the sub for your topic before posting.

There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule.

Users will either find a thread that meets their needs or find that their question might qualify for an exception to rule 7.

Please see this [wiki entry](http://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/wiki/how_to_search) for more details (Rule 7).

If you would like this removal reviewed, please read the [detailed rules](https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/wiki/detailed_rules) first. If you still feel the removal should be reviewed, please [message the moderators.](http://www.reddit.com/message/compose?to=%2Fr%2Fexplainlikeimfive&subject=Can%20you%20review%20my%20thread?)