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Having radiotherapy for laryngeal cancer

You have your radiotherapy treatment for laryngeal cancer in the hospital radiotherapy department. You will be in the same position you were in for your planning appointment and have to lie very still while you have the treatment. 

What is it?

Radiotherapy means the use of radiation, usually x-rays, to treat cancer cells.

You usually have a type of radiotherapy called intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) for laryngeal cancer. IMRT directs a precisely targeted dose of radiation to the area of the tumour from outside the body. 

When you have it

You might have radiotherapy: 

  • on its own
  • after surgery
  • with chemotherapy or biological therapy
  • to relieve symptoms

    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

    It is important to lie in the same position each time, so the radiographers may take a little while to position you on the couch and attach your mask to the couch. They make sure your mask feels comfortable. 

    Once you are in the right position the staff leave you alone in the room.

    During the treatment

    You need to lie very still on your back. Your radiographers might take images (x-rays or scans) before your treatment to make sure that you're in the right position. The machine makes whirring and beeping sounds. You won’t feel anything when you have the treatment.

    Your radiographers can see 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. You can also talk to them through the intercom or raise your hand if you need to stop or if you're uncomfortable.

    The treatment can take between 15 to 30 minutes.

    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 laryngeal cancer can make you make feel tired. You might also have a dry mouth and a sore throat. 

    Last reviewed: 
    11 Jul 2018
    • National Radiotherapy Implementation Group Report - Image Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT) guidance for implementation and use

      National Cancer Action Team, August 2012

    • Radiotherapy Services in England 2012

      Department of Health Cancer Policy Team, November 2012

    • Advances in radiotherapy

      S Ahmed and others. British Medical Journal, 2012. Vol. 345

    • External Beam Therapy
      P Hoskin
      Oxford University Press, 2012