Having radiotherapy with a pacemaker
People with pacemakers can usually have radiotherapy. But if the pacemaker is directly in the radiotherapy field, your doctor may want to take it out first. This is most likely to apply to people having treatment for breast cancer or lung cancer. Even then, the pacemaker does not always have to be removed.
Even if your pacemaker is not in the field of the radiotherapy dose, radiotherapy can interfere with how your pacemaker works. It depends on the type and model of your pacemaker and the dose of radiotherapy you are going to have.
Radiation interferes with how a pacemaker normally works because it causes chemical changes in the structure of the pacemaker and electrical energy disturbances during the treatment.
If you have a pacemaker, your doctors will monitor you very carefully during your treatment. When you finish your radiotherapy, your heart specialist will continue to keep a close eye on you.
Before you begin treatment your cancer doctor will talk to your heart specialist. They will get a detailed history of why you have a pacemaker in place. This will help them to understand exactly how much you need your pacemaker. Many different specialists are involved in radiotherapy treatment. The two most involved in planning your radiotherapy are the radiotherapy doctor (clinical oncologist) and the physicist. The physicist helps the radiotherapy doctor decide
- The best way of delivering the amount of radiation prescribed
- The exposure you should have to a particular radiotherapy machine to get the dose you need
They also make sure the radiotherapy equipment is accurate and safe. Both these specialists are very aware of the precautions necessary for someone who has a pacemaker. They will plan your radiotherapy to limit the amount of radiation your pacemaker is exposed to during your treatment.
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