Having radiotherapy for laryngeal cancer

You have your radiotherapy treatment for laryngeal cancer in the hospital radiotherapy department.

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.

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. 

The radiotherapy room

Radiotherapy machines are very big and could make you feel nervous when you see them for the first time. The machine might be fixed in one position or able to rotate around your body to give treatment from different directions. The machine doesn't touch you at any point.

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

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. 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

You might have to travel a long way each day for your radiotherapy. This depends on where your nearest cancer centre is. This can make you very tired, especially if you have side effects from the treatment.

You can ask the therapy radiographers Open a glossary item for an appointment time to suit you. They will do their best, but some departments might be very busy. Some radiotherapy departments are open from 7am till 9pm.

Car parking can be difficult at hospitals. Ask the radiotherapy staff if you are able to get free parking or discounted parking. They may be able to give you tips on free places to park nearby.

The radiotherapy staff may be able to arrange transport if you have no other way to get to the hospital. Your radiotherapy doctor would have to agree. This is because it is only for people that would struggle using public transport and have no access to a car. 

Some people are able to claim back a refund for healthcare travel costs. This is based on the type of appointment and whether you claim certain benefits. Ask the radiotherapy staff for more information about this.

Some hospitals have their own drivers and local charities might offer hospital transport. So do ask if any help is available in your area.

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: 
03 Dec 2021
Next review due: 
03 Dec 2024
  • 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

  • Laryngeal cancer: United Kingdom National Multidisciplinary guidelines

    T Jones and others

    The Journal of laryngology and otology, (2016), 130(S2), S75–S82.

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