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Before, during and after radiotherapy treatement

Before radiotherapy

We will plan your treatment to meet your individual needs but there are some general steps that you need to take before to starting your treatment.

  • Meeting with your radiation oncologist:  During this meeting your doctor will review your medical records, perform a physical examination and may recommend further tests.  You will learn about the potential risks and benefits of radiotherapy.  You will be given both written and verbal information regarding radiotherapy at this appointment.  It may be useful to have some questions you might have written down before this appointment.
  • Information and support radiation therapist: You will usually have to undertake a simulation CT scan (sometimes called planning scan) before starting your treatment.  

Before this scan the Information and Support Radiation Therapist (ISRT) will meet you and explain the radiotherapy treatment process and the expected side effects of radiotherapy.They will also help you to organise accommodation and travel support if you need it.

They will also refer you for any supports that you might need during your treatment, for example, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy or occupational therapy.

It is important for us to check that a patient is not pregnant before starting radiotherapy treatment.Radiation can harm a growing baby.If there is any chance that a patient may be pregnant they will have a pregnancy test.

  • CT simulation: Your first visit to the Radiation Oncology Centre will involve a CT planning scan.  The main purpose of this scan is to pinpoint the area to be treated (treatment field) and decide on the position that you will be in when you have your radiotherapy treatment.  You do not need to fast for this scan. 

It is important that you are in as comfortable position as possible as you will need to hold this position each time you have your radiotherapy treatment.

You will lie still on a flat surface and laser lights will be used to make sure that you are lying in a straight position on the bed.

Sometimes you may require some supports to help you stay in the treatment position.

This device will help you stay in the same position during

For radiotherapy to the head or neck region you may receive a mask.This is a mesh mask that is moulded to your face and secured to the table.It gently holds your head in place during each session.

  • Treatment planning: After your CT simulation scan, the radiation therapy team will review the information and finalise a radiotherapy treatment plan for you.  Computer software helps the team develop the plan.  It may take up to 3-4 weeks for the radiotherapy team to complete the treatment planning before you start your treatment.

During radiotherapy

  • The actual radiotherapy treatment takes just a few minutes.  Making sure the correct position before treatment can take a bit longer.
  • Radiotherapy does not hurt, sting or burn when it enters the body.  It is like having an X-ray.
  • During external beam radiotherapy, you will be positioned carefully on the treatment table in exactly the same position you were in for the CT planning scan. 

You will be asked to stay still while the treatment machine moves around at different angles.The machine itself does not touch you during your treatment.

Your radiation therapists will operate the machine from outside of the room.They will monitor you at all times using a camera.There is an intercom if you need to speak to your radiation therapists.

  • We will let you know how many treatment sessions you will need at the start of your radiotherapy treatment.
  • Our team will carefully monitor you for side effects throughout your course of treatment.  Side effects depend on what part of the body is being treated.  Side effects vary from patient to patient.
  • There is some car parking available to patients during their treatment.

After radiotherapy

  • When you finish your treatment plan, your treatment team will give you advice and information about your recovery and how to cope with any side effects.
  • The Radiation Oncology team follow up with most patients within 4-6 weeks after they finish their treatment.  Some patients may be referred back to their GP, surgeon or medical oncologist.  It is important to continue your follow-up care.  The team will want to check on your recovery and watch for any treatment related side effects.  Side effects may not happen right away.
  • Instead of appointments at the hospital a member of your treatment team, such as a doctor or advanced nurse practitioner, may contact you by phone for follow-up.