During radiotherapy, x-rays are used to treat several types of cancer.
Radiotherapy can also be used to treat non-cancerous (benign) tumours.
Your consultant will recommend a course of treatment depending on the type and size of your tumour and its location.
There are two types of radiotherapy:
External radiotherapy uses x-rays aimed at your body from the outside. You will be asked to lie on a table. A radiographer will set the table height and your position on the table very carefully. The room may have very low light. Once everything is set up correctly the radiographer will leave you. This is to ensure they are not exposed to unnecessary radiation. Don’t worry, there will be a intercom in the area so you can talk to the radiographer. The radiotherapy machine (called a linear accelerator) will direct radiation at the area being treated. The machine will not touch you and the whole procedure will be painless. During your treatment the accelerator may move and reposition to treat you at a different angle. The radiographer will be with you to ensure you are in the right position before treatment continues.
Internal radiotherapy uses implants (brachytherapy), a drink or an injection (radioisotope treatment) to administer the radiotherapy inside your body. During your internal radiotherapy safety measures will be followed to prevent unnecessary radiation exposure to staff and any visitors. At times you may be left alone or feel isolated. Be sure and let staff know if you have any concerns. Internal therapies may require a hospital stay until the radiation diminishes.
During your treatment be sure and ask any questions you might have. We know this can be a very stressful time.
What are the side effects of radiotherapy?
Everyone reacts differently to radiotherapy. The treatment damages cancerous cells. In the process normal cells can also be temporarily damaged but they will usually repair themselves over time. Side effect symptoms can last 10 - 15 days following the end of your course of treatment. For some, the symptoms take a few weeks to subside.
Common side effects are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Sore skin
- Hair loss
- Problems with swallowing
- Changes in your blood
- Stiff joints and muscles
- Infertility and early menopause
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