Principles of Radiation Therapy

  • Abigail L. StockhamEmail author
  • Allan Wilkinson
  • Arun D. Singh


Radioactivity was first described by Henri Becquerel and Pierre and Marie Curie in the late 1890s. Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-rays in 1895, and subsequent physics and biology research revealed the therapeutic properties of radiation. X-rays were first used to treat cancer in 1897. Soon after, the concept of brachytherapy was developed when radium was implanted into tumors for therapeutic effect. Low-voltage x-ray machines were built in the 1920s for the external treatment of superficial tumors. External beam radiation therapy was further refined in 1953 with the development of linear accelerators (linacs) that could produce megavoltage electron and x-ray photon beams using pulsed microwaves and an electron gun. In this chapter we review basic radiation principles and modern radiotherapy techniques. Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT), intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), stereotactic radiosurgery, and charged particle therapy (including proton beam radiotherapy), as discussed in this chapter, optimize therapeutic ratio by focusing on therapeutic doses of radiation, maximizing treatment dose, and minimizing damage to surrounding normal structures. The principles and techniques discussed provide a background for ophthalmologic oncologists regarding the physical and biologic rationale for radiation therapy and logistics of radiotherapy treatments.


External beam radiotherapy Radiation physics Brachytherapy Proton beam radiotherapy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abigail L. Stockham
    • 1
    Email author
  • Allan Wilkinson
    • 2
  • Arun D. Singh
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Radiation OncologyMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Radiation Oncology, Cole Eye InstituteCleveland Clinic FoundationClevelandUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ophthalmic OncologyCole Eye Institute, Cleveland ClinicClevelandUSA

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