Many people have radiotherapy as part of their cancer treatment. It uses high-energy rays, such as x-rays, to destroy cancer cells. In this blog content developer Azmina explains when radiotherapy is used, what to expect and issues to consider during treatment.
When is radiotherapy used?
Radiotherapy can be used to:
How is radiotherapy planned?
Your radiotherapy team plan your treatment carefully. They must make sure that the radiotherapy is aimed precisely at the cancer, while causing the least possible damage to healthy surrounding cells.
You usually attend the hospital for a planning visit and have a CT scan. This scan takes pictures inside your body and sends the information to a planning computer. Your radiotherapy team can then work out the exact dose and area of your treatment.
After the scan, you may have tiny ink marks (the size of a pinpoint) made on your skin. These help the radiographers position you accurately for your treatment. Usually these marks are permanent, like a tattoo. If you are concerned about this, let your radiotherapy team know. They can discuss other options with you. Some people have a plastic mould or mask made to help them stay still during radiotherapy, and the ink marks may be put on this.
If you are having radiotherapy to your pelvis, your healthcare team will tell you about any preparation you need.
What happens during treatment?
There are two main ways of giving radiotherapy:
What issues should be considered during treatment?
There are some important issues to think about if you have been offered radiotherapy:
Whatever your gender, you should use reliable contraception to prevent a pregnancy during your treatment and possibly for a few months afterwards. Radiotherapy given during pregnancy could harm a developing baby.
Radiotherapy can cause some side effects during or after treatment, such as:
It is unlikely that you will get all these side effects, and most are temporary. Your radiotherapy team can give you advice and support to help you cope.
Radiotherapy may slightly increase your chance of getting a different type of cancer later in life. This risk is far less than the benefits of treating the first cancer with radiotherapy. If you are worried about your risk of developing a second cancer, talk to your cancer doctor.
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