Radiation Oncology

Radiation oncology is one of the most common treatments for cancer and approximately 50% of all cancer patients who undergo therapy are subjected to radiation therapy. This type of treatment method involves the controlled use of radiation to treat cancer and is applied to several types of cancers either singularly or in combination with other treatments like chemotherapy. It is a non-invasive and cost-effective treatment method where radiation is administered in and around the cancer cells and the effectiveness of the treatment method is determined by its accuracy.

Aster International Institute of Oncology offers a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care and provides a specialized division that is equipped with experts, radiation therapists, and radiation oncology / medical physicists who have received extensive training in administering radiation with utmost care and precision. Using the latest technologies, these experts can deliver radiation therapy to patients diagnosed with cancer safely and effectively and can reduce pain and any other symptoms that are triggered by cancer.

With state-of-the-art cancer treatment options, Aster International Institute of Oncology aims to establish its leadership in the field of radiation oncology and is equipped with best-in-class technologies like Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) and Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) which incorporate imaging techniques to provide highly accurate modulated gamma radiation with minimal side effects while reducing the cancer treatment duration.

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Cancer Care Facilities
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Want to find out more about the treatment? The answer to your questions can be found below.

What is Radiation Oncology?

Radiation oncology is a field of medicine in which the physician uses high energy focused conformal radiation beams to treat cancer. Commonly known as radiotherapy, it encompasses the use of X-rays, Gamma rays &/or particle beams to target cancer cells and destroys them. It is one of the most common forms of cancer treatment and can be used both as a standalone treatment as well as with other therapeutic options such as chemotherapy and surgery. Most cancers these days require a multi-modality treatment approach to give the best chance of cure. With many advancements in the field of Radiation Oncology, the treatment has become much more effective while the side effects have become almost negligible.

How many types of Radiation therapy procedures are there?

Depending on the type of cancer and patient-related characteristics, there are usually three types of radiation therapy procedures -

  • External Beam Radiotherapy (EBRT) - wherein radiation beams are focussed on the tumour from a distance. Modern machines known as linear accelerators produce high energy X-rays, which can be focussed down to the site of cancer using techniques such as 3DCRT, IMRT, IGRT or Rapid Arc/VMAT to ensure most of the dose reaches the tumour and almost known of the dose enters the normal surrounding tissues.
  • Brachytherapy(Internal Radiation) - wherein the miniaturized radiation source inside specialized applicators is placed inside the tumour or immediately adjacent to it. Sometimes this requires the physician to perform the procedure under mild sedation or anaesthetic cover to enable proper placement of the applicators. This procedure has the advantage of being able to give a maximal dose to the tumour and a rapid dose fall-off ensuring normal tissues are spared.
  • Intra-operative Radiotherapy - This newer method is useful in certain cancers, where following a surgical exploration, a high dose of radiation can be delivered to the tumour bed under direct visualization. As this procedure is done in the same sitting as that of the primary surgery, it gives the added advantage of maximizing positive outcomes as well as reducing the total overall treatment times for the patient.

Can radiation therapy cause cancer?

Most people often fear that radiation can cause cancer. While it is true that increased exposure to radiation can increase cancer risk, however, radiation oncologists are trained in planning the treatment and only use adequate radiation with safety precautions to limit a patient’s exposure to radiation.

What are the side effects of radiation therapy?

While radiation therapy is usually targeted at cancer cells, however, during the process, healthy cells also get affected leading to several acute but temporary side effects such as -

  • Skin irritation in the form of redness & dryness along with hyperpigmentation (darkening).
  • Sunburn-like reactions.
  • Pain & difficulty in swallowing - mainly to solid, spicy and hot foods.
  • Nausea/Vomiting/Diarrhoea - in abdominal/pelvic cancer treatments.
  • Fatigue.
  • Occasionally cough, dry mouth, change in voice & taste, local loss of hair in cancers of head/neck & brain region.

Patients are advised not to self-medicate and follow the skin care & mucositis protocols advised by the department. Most of these effects disappear within 2 to 3 weeks post-completion of therapy.

What is the role of a radiation oncologist?

A radiation oncologist specializes in the effective usage of radiation therapy for cancer management. Radiation oncologists form an integral part of the multi-modality tumour board meetings to ensure appropriate usage of this therapeutic option is provided to all patients in a tertiary care centre. Hence these days, all hospitals that provide comprehensive treatment for cancer, mandatorily need to include a radiation oncology department for effective management and treatment of different types of cancers.

What to expect when you have been asked to undergo radiation therapy?

Once it is decided that you will require radiation treatment to improve your outcomes, firstly a planning process will ensue which could include the preparation of an immobilization cast of the affected area in the body. In this an aqua-plastic material takes the shape of the body to ensure that part of the body is totally fixed. Following this, you will undergo a planning CT &/or MRI &/or PETCT scan to help the radiation oncologist to mark the exact area to focus treatment on as well as the regions that need to be spared of any dose of radiation. Once the plan is finalized, you will be started on treatment which is a painless process with no apparent discomfort. Treatment lasts up to around 5-8 mins depending on cancer. Such treatments are usually done 5 days a week and may last just one week sometimes even going up to 7 weeks depending on the disease parameters.

Does radiation therapy affect your fertility?

If used to treat ovarian cancers, women are often at high risk of facing sterility. But, if radiation is used on other parts of the body, then it is unlikely that it will affect the reproductive system. Similarly, in males, if radiation is directed on the testicles then it can lead to sterility, else it is unlikely to cause any problems. It is also recommended that pregnant women must avoid undergoing radiation therapy as it may harm their babies.


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