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Having radiotherapy treatment for bone cancer

Radiotherapy uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. You have treatment in the radiotherapy department of the hospital.

You have the treatment broken up into a course of smaller dose treatments called fractions. You usually have a fraction every day, from Monday to Friday, with a rest at the weekend.

Most commonly, you have radiotherapy once daily, for a few weeks or days. For Ewing sarcoma you might have radiotherapy and chemotherapy at the same time. This is called chemoradiotherapy.

Radiotherapy planning

Before you begin your treatment, the radiotherapy team carefully plan your external beam radiotherapy.

The radiotherapy room

Radiotherapy machines are very big. They rotate around you to give you your treatment. The machine doesn't touch you at any point.

Before you start your course of treatment your therapy radiographers Open a glossary item explain what you will see and hear. In some departments the treatment rooms have docks for you to plug in your music player. So you can listen to your own music.

Photo of a linear accelerator

Your radiographers will help you to lie on the couch. You will be in the same position that you were in for the planning appointment. If they used a plastic shell at the planning appointment then they will use this again.

The radiographers line up the radiotherapy machine using the marks on your body or on the shell. Once you are in the right position, they leave the room.

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 will ask you to raise your hand if you need anything. But it is important to stay as still as possible. 

You won't be radioactive

This type of radiotherapy won't make you radioactive. It's safe to be around other people, including pregnant women and children.

Travelling to radiotherapy appointments

Tell the radiotherapy department 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 hospital transport for you. But it might not always be at convenient times. To see if you're eligible they usually work it out based on your earnings or income.

Some hospitals have their own drivers or can arrange ambulances. Some charities offer hospital transport.

Side effects

Radiotherapy for bone cancer has some side effects including:

  • feeling tired or weak
  • reddening of the skin in the treatment area
  • loss of any body hair in the treatment area

Other side effects depend on which part of the body is being treated. Not everyone has all the side effects of radiotherapy.