Radiotherapy – Information & Support

  • External radiotherapy is normally given as a series of short, daily treatments in the radiotherapy department, using equipment similar to a large x-ray machine.
  • The treatment itself is painless, although it may gradually cause some uncomfortable side effects.
  • Radiotherapy affects people in different ways; some find that they can carry on working or studying, only needing time off for their treatment, while others find it too tiring and prefer to stay at home.

What to expect:

  • A session can take anything from a few seconds to several minutes. Your positioning is important, so the radiographers may take a little while to get you ready before treatment starts.
  • They’ll position you carefully and adjust the height of the table. The room may be in semi-darkness while this is happening.
  • Once you’re in the correct position the staff will need to leave you alone in the room, but there will usually be an intercom so that you can talk to the radiographers.

They will be watching you carefully from the next room, either through a window or on a television screen. If you have any problems, you can raise your hand to attract the radiographer’s attention and they will come in to help you.

Most radiotherapy machines will be able to rotate around your body to give the treatment from several different directions.

NB: Women of childbearing age will be asked whether they could be pregnant, as x-rays given during pregnancy could harm a baby. If you think that you may be pregnant, let the doctors and radiographers know immediately and you’ll be offered a pregnancy test.

It is given in one of two ways:

  • By putting solid radioactive material close to or inside the tumour for a limited period of time.
  • By using a radioactive liquid, which is given either as a drink or as an injection into a vein.

If you have internal radiotherapy, you may have to stay in hospital for a few days and special precautions will be taken while the radioactive material is in your body. Once the treatment is over there is no risk of exposing your family or friends to radiation, but while it is in progress they may not be able to come close to you.

Join CanTeen’s online community to chat with other young people about radiotherapy… or anything really.