When is radiotherapy used?


More than half of patients with cancer will receive radiation therapy during their care pathway.

Radiation therapy is a localized treatment that isrecommended for approximately 60% of patients with cancer.

Radiotherapy can be:

  • curative, when the aim is to cure the disease;

palliative, when the aim is to relieve a symptom, such as pain or bleeding.

Radiotherapy can be proposedalone or in combination with other treatments, particularly surgery and/or chemotherapy.. In this case, clinicians talk about concomitant radio-chemotherapy.. The sequence and duration of each treatment depend on the tumor type, location, stage, and on the patient’s general health status and age.

If performed before cancer surgery, radiation therapy is called neoadjuvant and its objectives are to:

  • reduce the tumor volume
  • facilitate surgery
  • reduce the risk of recurrence

If performed after surgery, radiation therapy is called adjuvant and its aims are to:

  • kill the remaining cancer cells that are not visible to the eye or on imaging
  • reduce the risk of recurrence

Radiotherapy is very frequently proposed to patients with:

  • gynecological cancers (breast, uterus, vagina)
  • urogenital cancers (bladder, prostate)
  • ENT cancers (pharynx, larynx, oral cavity)
  • digestive cancers (esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum)
  • lung cancer
  • brain cancer

The decision to prescribe radiotherapy is usually made during a multidisciplinary team meeting that brings together medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, organ specialists, radiologists, nuclear medicine physicians, and pathologists.