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Having radiotherapy treatment

Find out about what happens during your radiotherapy sessions for nasal and paranasal sinus cancer.

Radiotherapy uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells.

When you have treatment

You have your treatment in the hospital radiotherapy department. This means going to the hospital for treatment once a day, from Monday to Friday, with a break at the weekends.

The length of the course of treatment varies, depending on the type and size of the cancer and the aim of the treatment. But it is usually for between 4 and 7 weeks.

The radiotherapy room

Radiotherapy machines are very big. Some are fixed in one position, but others rotate around your body.  

Before you start your course of treatment your radiographers explain what you'll see and hear. In some departments the treatment rooms have docks for you to plug in music players. So you can listen to your own music.

Photo of a linear accelerator

During the treatment

You need to lie very still. The machine makes whirring and beeping sounds. You can't feel the radiotherapy when you have the treatment. 

Your radiographers can see you and hear you on a CCTV screen in the next room. They can talk to you over an intercom and might ask you to hold your breath or take shallow breaths at times. They will ask you to raise your hand if you need anything but it is important to stay as still as possible. 

This video shows what happens during the treatment. The video lasts 1:17 minutes.

You won't be radioactive

External radiotherapy doesn't make you radioactive. It's safe to be with other people throughout your course of treatment, including pregnant women and children.

Travelling to radiotherapy appointments

Tell the radiotherapy department staff if you prefer treatment at a particular time of day. They can try to arrange this.

Car parking can be difficult at hospitals. It’s worth asking the radiotherapy unit staff:

  • if they can give you a hospital parking permit
  • about discounted parking rates
  • where you can get help with travel fares
  • for tips on free places to park nearby

If you have no other way to get to the hospital, the radiotherapy staff might be able to arrange transport for you. But it might not always be at convenient times. Some hospitals have their own drivers or can arrange ambulances. Some charities offer hospital transport.

If you smoke

If you smoke your doctor will advise you to give up. Radiotherapy might not work as well and you may have more side effects if you continue to smoke. Stopping smoking can be very difficult, especially when you are going through a stressful time. You can talk to your doctor or nurse about support to help you stop smoking.

You can also read our information about how to stop.

Side effects of radiotherapy

Radiotherapy for nasal and paranasal sinus cancer causes tiredness and sore, red skin in the area being treated. It can also cause other effects.

Last reviewed: 
05 Jul 2016
  • External Beam Therapy
    Peter Hoskin
    Oxford Universtiy Press, 30 Aug 2012

  • Paranasal sinus cancer
    F Jégoux, A Métreau, G Louvel and C Bedfert
    European Annals of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Diseases, Volume 130, Issue 6, December 2013, Pages 327–335

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