Radiation Therapy

This year, more than 11,000 British Columbians will need radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to combat and shrink tumour cells. When being given treatment, a patient can expect to be treated with an invisible beam of radiation that you cannot see or feel, similar to a diagnostic x-ray but with a much higher energy.

Radiation treatment is specified by two groups – radiation for cure and radiation for palliation (pain and symptom management).

Curative radiation treatment is used on its own, and often in combination with other treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Curative treatments are usually longer and higher dose and can be associated with both short and longer term side effects.

Radiation for palliation is treatment to relieve symptoms such as pain, extend a patient’s life or improve the quality of life for a patient.

All radiation treatment is very specific to a patient’s cancer, targeted to particular parts of the body. Radiation therapy is used to treat some, but not all cancers. About 55 per cent of patients with cancer receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment.

Radiation therapy is administered at all six BC Cancer centres in the province.

Innovation in radiation therapy

Thanks to people like you, BC Cancer can provide British Columbians with highly innovative and efficient radiation treatment and a world-class patient experience.

One of these advancements is bringing VERO to BC Cancer. VERO is the most advanced stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) system available in the world. SBRT involves delivering multiple beams of radiation from outside the body in a concentrated (high dose) manner from various directions, effectively targeting a tumour from every possible angle. VERO integrates several cutting-edge precision radiotherapy technologies into one, boosting BC Cancer’s ability to deliver the most precise treatment for patients.

Cutting-edge equipment is critical in advancing radiation therapy. Right now, BC Cancer’s centres across the province have the opportunity to take care to the next level with access to new technology. Learn More. 

Research in radiation therapy

The radiation therapy team at BC Cancer participates in cutting-edge clinical trials with other institutions across the country, as well as leading B.C.-focused research.

Clinical trials

The BC Cancer team is highly motivated to improve treatments and cure rates for patients. They are actively involved in large scale clinical trials with partners across the country with an aim to improve the standard of care for patients.

The radiation therapy team leads its own B.C.-based clinical trial research taking place in B.C. These trials often involve a particular technique or combination with a new drug.

Looking at progress from patients in the past

Looking at treatment results, side effects and toxicity related to radiation therapy is critical in order to continue improving care. Things are constantly evolving and radiation oncologists are constantly learning about the toleration of tissue and aim to make it as safe as possible.

Greatest needs in radiation therapy

Clinical research support

The BC Cancer radiation therapy team is involved in innovative and cutting-edge clinical trials that encompass a wide range of tumour types as well as behavioural and screening studies. Donor support is needed to continue the team’s participation in clinical research and trials, and to continue innovative and ground-breaking work.

Currently, there are 75 clinical studies open through the radiation therapy department at BC Cancer, with 10 more opening soon. Some of the trial areas that are currently underway include:

  • Screening
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Gynecological cancers
  • Pain & symptom management
  • Head & neck cancers
  • Gastrointestinal cancers


Your help is needed to support patient equipment enhancements and clinical research to provide the most effective radiation treatment for all patients in B.C.

To learn more, please contact
Jan New