Will the radiotherapy hurt?
No. Radiotherapy is painless. During treatment, the majority of patients will experience no sensation and will only hear the sound of the treatment machine buzzing whilst it is switched on.
Why is radiotherapy used in conjunction with other treatments?
Once a cancer diagnosis has been made you may be referred for a radiation oncology opinion. For example, if you have breast cancer, you are likely to have breast cancer surgery to remove the tumour, radiotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells near the cancer site and possibly chemotherapy or hormone therapy to destroy cancer cells that may have travelled to other parts of the body.
Are there different kinds of radiation used?
Radiotherapy can be delivered in two ways: externally and internally.
• During external beam radiotherapy, the radiation oncology team uses a machine called a linear accelerator (Linac) to direct high-energy X-rays at the cancer. This process in non-invasive and the majority of patients do not experience any sensation whilst receiving it.
• Internal radiotherapy or brachytherapy involves placing radioactive sources (radioactive seeds) inside your body.
How is radiation generated?
The radiation is generated by a machine called a Linear Accelerator - also known as a Linac, which converts electricity into radiation. The Linac is capable of producing high-energy X-rays and electrons in a variety of different energies for the treatment best suited for your cancer.
Is radiotherapy safe?
Radiation has been used successfully to treat patients for more than 110 years. In that time, many advances have been made to ensure that radiotherapy is both safe and effective. We align treatment schedules and practices with current evidence based approaches. Your radiation oncologist will be able to explain the measures taken to ensure a safe, reliable radiation dose delivery schedule for your situation.
Will I become radioactive after external beam radiotherapy?
No. Radiation is only present when being directed at the area of treatment whilst the machine is switched on. No radiation is left inside your body after the treatment; you will not be radioactive
Temporary or permanent hair loss in the treated areas may occur. In the instance of radiotherapy hair will only fall out in the area of the body being treated. For example, if you are having radiotherapy to your head you will probably lose some hair from your scalp.
How does radiotherapy work?
Radiotherapy is the use of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. It may be used to cure cancer, control the growth of the cancer or relieve symptoms caused by cancer such as pain. Radiotherapy works by damaging cells. Normal cells are able to repair themselves, whereas cancer cells are less capable of repair. It is this difference that provides a biological advantage, which is used in planning radiotherapy treatments for different cancer types.
Will radiotherapy burn me?
After some weeks into your treatment, the skin and other tissues in the body react to the radiation, by becoming irritated and unpleasant. This is not a burn, but the body's inflammatory response to the radiation, the severity of which is dependent on the area of the body being treated, your general health and wellbeing, any medications or medical treatments you may be undergoing at the same time and the radiation dose prescribed.
Will I be sick and sore from day one?
Not usually. Radiotherapy has a cumulative effect. As a general rule it will take some time for any side effects to develop. Similarly it takes some weeks after the completion of treatment before they start to subside.
Will radiotherapy make me sick?
Radiotherapy treatment only directly causes nausea and vomiting when treatment is being delivered to the general abdominal region. Medications called antiemetic’s are prescribed in these circumstances and are can be very effective in controlling nausea caused by radiotherapy. The nursing staff can also advise on simple dietary and lifestyle adaptations that can help manage nausea alongside taking prescribed medication.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a generic name given to a group of diseases that involve uncontrolled multiplication of abnormal cells. This usually results in the area growing in size, affecting the original and adjacent organs and often results in the spread of the cancer to other sites of the body.
What is Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation (APBI)?
Accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI), is a localised form of radiation treatment (known as brachytherapy) that involves the insertion of a radioactive source to kill breast cancers cells that may remain after lumpectomy surgery. APBI delivers a high-dose of radiation while greatly reducing:
• The required treatment time from 4-6 weeks to 1 week, and the dose to normal breast tissue and critical organs such as the heart and lungs.