Just had my first pelvic radiotherapy session

Hi All,

I thought I would explain my first Radiotherapy session for anyone who is waiting to start and wondering.

I am having pelvic radiotherapy as adjuvant treatment following surgery which removed my uterus, tubes and ovaries. My lymph nodes were left, due to adhesions.

So, I had my planning CT scan 2 weeks ago. This morning , I had it all explained to me again by the radiologist, I asked and confirmed which structures they were zapping. Then I laid on the bed in the centre of the room, with support under my head and knees, so was comfortable. Then the radiologist and assistant left the room. There was some background music playing. The machine , which looked and was very high tech, moved round me, making some quiet little sounds sometimes. Then it was all done, and the radiographer came back  and said that was it, and discussed the timings for tomorrow( starting chemo as well then, having the chemo first).

The machine was image guided, doing a type of radiotherapy called VMAT ( volumetric modulated arc therapy), so the machine moved round me in a 360 degree arc.

The whole thing took 30 minutes from walking in to walking out. I wasn't timing it but I guess about 15 minutes was the actual treatment.

The radiographer said the effects are cumulative, so I may not get side effects for the first 2 weeks.

Hope this is useful for anyone who is wondering. 

  • Hi . Always good to get the first one out of the way as you then know what to expect. You then get in to the daily routine. Surprising how upbeat these places usually are and not all doom and gloom as you may expect. I had 6 weeks of it and didn't really have any side effects other than tiredness towards the end. I hope all goes well for you. Best wishes.

  • Hi Mrs Woodentop

    Goodness me I'm old enough to remember the woodentops.

    I've just completed eight weeks of pelvic radiotherapy. The team I had were fantastic, and I had a pleasant, personal, and positive experience.

    I had a few minor side effects, which were easily manged, and I kept my team informed of anything that was happening. I found them to be very supportive,and helpful, especially as I messed up on the odd occasion. Keep them informed, and the odd packet of biscuits, or cake shows your appreciation of what they're doing for you, and certainly helps with your treatment.

    Best wishes for your on going treatment

  • Thanks flightsim,

    Its reassuring to hear you only had a few manageable side effects from 8 weeks. Glad you had a positive experience.

    I am finding the team really kind and supportive too. I messed up a bit today, have learned what not to have for breakfast! It was 3rd time lucky after emptying and refilling, but there were others to be seen in the gaps so I did not feel too bad. 

    I will definitely make sure the team know how appreciated they are.

    Best Wishes for your continued recovery now you are done with treatment.

  • Thanks rily 

    Its good to know that lots of side effects do not have to happen.  Glad you had a good experience.

    Thanks for the encouragement. 

    Best Wishes to you too.

  • Well I finished my 5 weeks pelvic radiotherapy on Friday last week and just finished a treatment free week before my next chemo.

    Everyone was lovely, especially when I got it wrong in judging the empty bowel /full bladder combination.  I am looking forward to getting back to eating fruit and veg and not having to be bothered with timings!

    I have been lucky so far with side effects. I have had some digestive system pain and soreness, bad enough for co-codamol once or twice, but otherwise so far the main effect has been tiredness. 

    It's been very manageable so far. 

  • Hi Mrs Woodentops, I haven't started with radiotherapy yet.  Could you tell me more about the food you couldn't eat?  love fruit and veg it keeps me going otherwise my system halts.

  • This was very helpful. I am going back today to discuss the radiotherapy- she has said I will need five weeks. I have been concerned about possible side effects but only time will tell.

  • Hi Mrs Woodentop,

    just to say that I appreciated this post. My first radiotherapy session is on 9th October and now I hav e more idea what to expect. Have you had many side effects?

  • Hi TC108,

    My side effects were tiredness after the end of the second week, and some digestive system soreness.

    I had concurrent chemotherapy, ( my last chemo is on 24th September), so at least some of the tiredness is that.   I found radiotherapy with Cisplatin really no problem.  After I finished radiotherapy on 12th July, I switched chemo to Carboplatin/Paclitaxel.  The first cycle of that was in the recovery phase from radiotherapy,  and my digestive system was quite painful for a few days at the start of that cycle. 

    I would say it was 4 weeks after the last radiotherapy to be pretty much over any noticeable side effects.

    One I have had is some slight vaginal spotting on tissue/discharge like when pre-menopausal ( very slight), which my oncologist says is from the irritation to the vagina which is in the radiotherapy target area, caused by the radiotherapy. I am not sexually active so it's not a problem for me.Its expected to go anyway.

    I have just seen also the question about diet during radiotherapy. You need to present yourself with an empty bowel, which includes empty of wind, as otherwise your bowel edges into the target area, which they aim to avoid. Fruit and veg consumption can make this challenging! I found if easier to stick with protein and carbs during my radiotherapy weeks. On the other hand they want a full bladder for the same reason, so drink plenty during the day so it's easy to top up to full on demand. Takes ages to do that if you are dehydrated. 

    On clothing, I wore trousers and a top mostly.As it was for pelvic,  I went into the room in undies and top. There was a changing room outside and I just left my trousers and bag in there.Once you are in position they just get you to pull your top up to below your boobs and nickers down to your groin. Once you are zapped and the machine has moved out of the way,  you re arrange yourself, hop off the table and thats it.

    It really is very manageable. 

    Best wishes x

  • Thanks for your email it really has been helpful. I find the prospect quite daunting. Hope your chemo is going as well as possible.

    best wishes x

  • Hello TC 108 

    I am now on RT9 of 25 and I echo MrsWoodentop’s thoughts. I am delighted by how manageable RT is once one gets into the swing of having an empty bowel and full-enough bladder.  I have found it so much easier than chemo. I am sure you will settle to it. I am beginning to open my eyes now and count the laser lights! I feel sure protein and carbs is the diet to follow; if veggies are a must, then nothing green or red.

    Best wishes


  • My RT was several years ago now for bladder cancer. Mrs. Woodentop describes the procedure well. I had chemo alongside the RT with PICC line and infusion pump. I had no effects to talk about during treatment. Afterwards the fatigue set in which wiped me out for about 2 hours each day. Bowels were erratic for a couple of months, but settled. I had a weekly consultation with a doctor after a treatment session and this is the time to discuss any concerns. Once you get the first couple out of the way, it just becomes a daily routine. Staff are very good at putting you at your ease. There is a good video on the Mac pages HERE which gives you a good insight on what to expect. Nothing was ever mentioned to me about diet, but I suppose that would depend on what you are being treated for. I have had no long term effects. Good luck to all going through this. Best wishes.

  • Thank you - I am feeling much more positive now and will definitely follow the diet advice.

    best wishes 

  • Hi Mrs Woodentop,

    I would just like to say congratulations on the commencement of your treatment.  

    Like yourself I had radiotherapy 35 sessions, 2 brachytherapy, 6 chemo and surgery to remove half of my vagina.  That was at the beginning of 2013 and with the grace of God, determination advice and excellent care I’m here to tell the tale.

    It is wonderful that you are sharing your experience with others.  When I was diagnosed with vaginal cancer I had no womb, ovaries, Fallopian tubes or Cervix and I thought I’m safe, but how wrong I was.  To anyone following this courageous ladies postings I want to say if I had been able to read another persons experiences I would have been less petrified, less anxious and extremely reassured to know that there was somebody there to answer questions I was too frightened to ask.  To know that someone was on a similar journey as mine and could give me an idea of what to expect would have been brilliant. 

    Initially when you start treatment you are so unsure of what lies ahead, but when you find a person like Mrs Woodentop who is sharing her experiences, worries and fears you are better armed to start this life changing journey.

    For each and everyone who is on this journey, to the Nurses, Doctors and Consultants I send my love, prayers and Blessings. At the end of my Cancer journey I realised that material things are nice to have, but the most important thing is the unending love, strength and support my husband, children and family give me every day.  Love and Best Wishes xxxxx

  • Thanks Mrs Woodentop for posting. My Mum will be starting pelvic radiotherapy in about a month's time we believe so it is really helpful to read of your experience. All the best with your treatment.

  • Hi I read your post I have vaginal cancer and have told I need radiotherapy and chemo. How are you feeling now ?

  • Hi I have vaginal cancer and treatment is going to be radiotherapy for five weeks and chemotherapy alongside I have no cervix or uterus either so similar to you really. I just wondered how you coped with side effects from chemo thankse

  • Hi Duxbury,

    The radiotherapy was pretty free of consequences for the first 2 weeks, after which the main effect was tiredness.  I had some digestive system discomfort,  pain from that a couple of days only, and actually only when radiotherapy and chemo overlapped. 

    I have some contact vaginal slight bleeding, very slight discharge,  which my oncologist says will be due to vaginal wall scarring from the external radiotherapy.  It doesn't cause any problem. 

    I'd say I was pretty much over the effects of the radiotherapy 4 weeks after it finished.  Chemo , I am in my last cycle of 6 currently. I have found I get about 4 days of being laid low by it in each cycle.  So it's all very do able.

    Best of luck with yours.