Read about what happens at your planning appointment for external radiotherapy.
Planning your treatment
The radiotherapy team plans your external beam radiotherapy before you start treatment. This means working out how much radiation you need and exactly where you need it. Your planning appointment takes from 15 minutes to 2 hours.
You have a planning CT scan in the radiotherapy department. The scan shows the cancer and the area around it. You might also have other types of scans or x-rays so that your treatment team can plan your radiotherapy.
When you arrive for your appointment the radiographers tell you what is going to happen. They will help you into position on the scan couch. You might have a type of firm cushion called a vacbag to help you keep still.
The CT scanner couch is the same type of bed that you lie on for your treatment sessions. You need to lie very still. Tell the radiographers if you aren't comfortable.
Injection of dye
You might need an injection of contrast into a vein in your hand. This is a dye that helps body tissues show up more clearly on the scan. Before you have the contrast medium, the radiographer asks you about any medical conditions or allergies. Some people are allergic to the dye.
Having the scan
Once you are in position the radiographers put some markers on your skin. They will move the couch up and through the scanner. They then leave the room and the scan starts.
The scan takes about 5 minutes. You won't feel anything. The radiographers can see you from the CT control area where they operate the scanner.
Ink and tattoo marks
The radiographers might make pin point sized tattoo marks in the treatment area. These make sure they treat exactly the same area every day. They may also draw marks around the tattoos with a permanent ink pen. This highlights the tattoos and makes them look like small crosses.
The radiotherapy unit staff tell you how to look after the markings. The pen marks might start to rub off in time. If that happens, tell your radiographer. Don't try to redraw them yourself.
After your planning session
It can take a few days or up to 3 weeks before you start treatment.
During this time your radiographers and doctors create your radiotherapy plan. They make sure that the area of the cancer will receive a high dose and surrounding areas receive a low dose. This reduces the side effects you might get during and after treatment.