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Planning

Find out 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 to treat the cancer 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.

Photo of a CT scanner

The radiographers put some markers on your skin. You need to lie very still.

Once you are in position the radiographers move the couch up and through the scanner. The radiographers leave the room and the scan starts.

The scan takes about 5 minutes. You won't feel anything. The radiographers watch from the next room.

Before the planning appointment you might also have other scans, such as an MRI scan.

Your treatment team puts all the scans together in a special computer to decide your radiotherapy plan. 

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.

Radiotherapy tattoo marks
Radiotherapy treatment area marks.

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 radiologists 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.

Last reviewed: 
14 Oct 2014
  • Endometrial cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    N Colombo, E Preti, F Landoni and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2013, Vol 24 (Supplement 6)

  • Principles and practice of oncology (9th edition)
    VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2011

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