What is Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)?
Radiotherapy is the use of high energy x-rays to treat cancer. Radiotherapy is sometimes called external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) and is delivered by a linear accelerator (radiotherapy treatment machine). Your treatment is individualised and carefully planned by your doctor and radiation therapists.
What happens during radiation therapy?
When you are having radiotherapy, you will be on your own in the treatment room. The radiation therapists can see and hear you at all times via cameras in the treatment room.
If you become concerned or feel unwell in any way, raise your hand or call out. The radiation therapists will interrupt the treatment and attend to you.
The machine will not touch you during treatment and you won’t feel anything. The machine will move around you and make a buzzing sound.
What is the aim of treatment?
Radiotherapy is given to destroy cancer cells, relieve the symptoms caused by the cancer and improve your quality of life.
How long will this treatment take?
The treatment is usually given Monday to Friday as an outpatient in the radiotherapy department. It takes about 20 minutes each time.
Before radiotherapy begins and during treatment, if you are pregnant or feel that there is any chance that you may be pregnant it is important to discuss this with your doctor.
Both men and women should use contraception during and after radiotherapy. Do not try to get pregnant or father a child. Ask your doctor or nurse about what type of contraception you should use and for how long.
Tell your doctor, nurse or radiation therapist if you:
- develop headaches
- have dizziness or vertigo
- develop any changes to your skin
- feel unwell in any way.
At home it is important to:
If you are claustrophobic (get scared in small spaces), tell your doctor before your treatment begins. They may be able to give you medication to help you. .
- A special mask or shell will be made that will keep you in the right position during treatment.
- During treatment, the mask is secured to the treatment couch to keep you still and in the right position.
Will I be radioactive?
You will NOT be radioactive during and after external beam radiotherapy treatment. You can safely mix with other people, including children and pregnant women, at any time during and after your treatment.
Can I drive during treatment?
You are advised NOT to drive as your condition and the treatment can interfere with your driving ability. Please discuss with your radiation oncologist prior to driving a motor vehicle.
Who can I talk to if I am not coping?
It is not uncommon for you to feel anxious or depressed during and after treatment. Let your treating team know and they will arrange for you to talk to some one. You can also call the Cancer Council on 13 11 20 for cancer information and support.
How do you know if the treatment is successful?
It may not be possible to know if your treatment has been successful immediately after treatment. Your doctor will see you after treatment is complete and will discuss your progress.