Unable to lie flat for Radiotherapy treatment

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Hi all, 

Does anyone know if the team giving the radiotherapy can make adjustments to accommodate someone who is unable to lie flat for the radiotherapy session? Like big a higher pillow or something? 

Mum has COPD and stage 4 lung cancer. 

My mum had the first session yesterday and has 4 more palliative sessions next week. She managed 3 CT scans before okay but as her breathing was really bad on the morning of the session it made her experience awful. 

She was panting during the session and told them she felt like she was going to pass out. They asked if it was her normal breathing and she replied only when lying flat on her back. Mum tried breathing techniques as best she could but said it was an awful experience. When she sat up she went really dizzy and lightheaded. 

Hoping they will be accommodating otherwise she said she will refuse the treatment as she can’t go through that again. 

  • Hi Harley

    I am sorry to hear that Mum didn't have a great experience with her first radiotherapy session. It must have been very distressing. 

    When I had my radiotherapy (pelvis) I was given a CT planning scan before the treatment was due to begin. At that scan they could use foam cushions etc to get me into a comfortable position. From that the radiotherapy treatment was planned. The radiotherapy is pin point targeted to the position of the planning scan. Any change in position from that would mean that the radiotherapy could be aimed at the wrong place. Your Mum may have had some tattoo dots? that they use to line you up to to radiotherapy beams- so it is important that they are very precise. 

    I totally understand your Mum's feelings but I suggest that she talks to her radiotherapists/doctors to see what options there are. It maybe that they can give her something to help with her breathing and/ or to help her relax while she is having the treatment. I had 25 sessions and to begin with I did feel quite panicky and short of breath but I found that if they talked to me throughout and told me exactly what they were doing, I did feel calmer.

    I found CT scans were easier and quicker as you have time to get into a comfortable position. With radiotherapy it felt harder as you have to lay very still. 



    Macmillan Support Line - 0808 808 00 00, 7 days a week between 8am-8pm

  • Thank you Jane for your reply. 

    Mum had the planning session which went okay. Tattoos are on her abdomen to get her into the right place for the lung treatment. She advised them about lying flat and they said she would be okay as it is same as CT scan. 

    Mum’s breathing has been worse last few days (even before the Radiotherapy treatment) and 02 sats were 90 on that day too so lying down with COPD will make them drop more. 

    She lay almost flat with oxygen when she recently had a stent inserted for SVCO but I am not sure if oxygen can be given during radiotherapy treatments? 

    We will speak to the team before the next session and see what they say. Hopefully they will able to assist her somehow. 

  • Am not sure about oxygen being given during radiotherapy but it is worth asking about- even if they are able to use while she is being prepared/putting into position and then they remove it during the actual treatment. I am not sure how long Mum's actual treatment is but for me most of the time was spent getting me into position. The actual bit where they left the room and the treatment was done was only a few moments. 

    I hope that they can find a way to make Mum more comfortable for her treatments and that the treatments themselves help her.



    Macmillan Support Line - 0808 808 00 00, 7 days a week between 8am-8pm

  • I have just finished my RT Sessions and I have to admit I had to lay on my front and found it really difficult as I have 2 frozen shoulders so can't lay flat. The staff are lovely and really helpful, I just hope your Mum finds it easier the next time and doesn't give up on her treatment. Xx

  • Thank you for your reply. Will keep you posted of how she gets on. Wishing you all the best x