Delays with radiotherapy

I had breast cancer surgery on 28 February. My first radiotherapy appointment was not offered until 9th May and I thought treatment would start soon after. I had a planning scan on 17 May. My first appointment is not being offered until the middle of June which will be 15 weeks after surgery and I need 4 weeks of treatment. I am worried about this delay and whether the treatment will be effective after this long. I have been advised that for optimum effectiveness treatment should be within 12 weeks and most information suggests usually starts within 4-6 weeks.

Is anyone else experiencing this sort of  delay? Are there national guidelines on timescales?

Thank you 

  • In England there is a 31 day standard between the date you are “fit to treat” and the date subsequent treatment including radiotherapy should start.  https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/going-further-cancer-waits.pdf . However, that is more of a political target, it’s not based on studies of effectiveness as far as I can tell.

    Depending on how you recovered from surgery it does sound like you are outside that.  It’s also a very long gap between planning and treatment, I was told they like to minimise that gap to avoid changes in your shape.  As a comparison I had surgery on 31 March, consultation 28  April, planning 6 may and treatment started 16 May so I finished on Friday (only 5 doses for me).

    You could ask if you could move centres for a shorter wait, but as you’ve already had the planning that may not be possible or optimal.  Maybe try to speak to the BCN or radiotherapy staff about your concerns and see what they say about effectiveness and timing?

    Good luck, the waiting for treatment is always so hard.

  • Just to add though, I’m not convinced by the 4-6 week statistic if it’s between surgery and actual treatment.  I don’t think mine could have been any quicker and that was 7 and a bit weeks.  Even in the most straightforward case post surgery swelling takes a few weeks to settle and they won’t start planning until everything is stable.  And there’s always a week between planning and treatment as far as I can tell.  So I’d think 6-10 weeks would be more realistic.  Really interested to hear other people’s timing?

  • I had WLE on 24th Feb, re-excision 24 March, oncologist appt 25th April, planning 3rd May, and started RT 16th May - will finish on 25th May. The RT could have started a week earlier I think but I had a holiday booked. So my RT started 7.5 weeks after the last surgery. 

    You do seem to have quite a delay between planning and actual RT. 

  • Thank you for your reply. Your dates are what I had expected after the initial appointment. Glad that you are nearly there with your RT. 

  • Thank you that is really helpful. I agree that I certainly would not have been ready to start RT within the 4-6 week period. Its the delay from 9th May to 16th June that just seems so long. As you say your shape can change following the planning appointment. I have spoken with my BCN who is going to escalate and I will contact radiotherapy again tomorrow. 

    Good luck with the rest of your treatment.

  • Hi, I had surgery 9 August and radiotherapy started on 8 October, There was a delay in my R/T as I had a seroma and they wanted it to settle, but even with that it was 8 weeks. Hope this helps.

  • Hi, thanks for letting me know , that’s really helpful.