Find out about what happens when you have external radiotherapy for oesophageal cancer.
Radiotherapy uses high energy waves similar to x-rays to kill cancer cells.
You have external radiotherapy in a hospital radiotherapy department. You usually have it as an outpatient each weekday over 4 to 6 weeks.
Some hospitals have rooms near the hospital you can stay in if you have a long way to travel.
You go to the radiotherapy department from your ward if you’re already in hospital.
The radiotherapy room
Radiotherapy machines are very big. They usually rotate around you to give your treatment. The machine does not touch you at any point.
Before you start your course of treatment your radiographers explain what you 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.
Before each treatment session
The radiographers help you to get into position on the treatment couch. They fit your mask if you need one to keep you still during the treatment session.
They line up the radiotherapy machine, using marks on the mask or on your skin.
You might need to raise your arms above your head.
Then the radiographers leave you alone in the room for a few minutes.
Daniel (radiographer): Before your treatment starts your doctor will need to work out exactly where the treatment needs to go and also which parts need to be avoided by the treatment.
To have radiotherapy you lie in the same position as you did for your planning scans.
To stop you moving and to make sure your treatment is directed at the cancer you wear a custom mask over your face which is attached to the couch.
We line up the machine using marks on your mask and then leave the room. We control the machine from a separate room this is so we aren’t exposed to radiation.
Treatment takes a few minutes and you’ll be able to talk to us using an intercom. We can see you and hear you while you’re having treatment and we will check that you’re OK.
When your treatment starts you won’t feel anything. You may hear the machine as it moves around you giving the treatment from different angles.
Because we’re aiming to give the same treatment to the same part of the body every day the treatment process is exactly the same everyday so you shouldn’t really notice any difference.
You’ll see someone from the team caring for you once a week while you’re having treatment. They’ll ask how you are and ask about any side effects.
During the treatment
You need to lie very still. 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. They 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
External radiotherapy does not make you radioactive. It's safe to be with other people throughout your course of treatment, including pregnant women and children.
Side effects of treatment
Radiotherapy to the oesophagus can make you tired and make your mouth and throat sore. You may also have difficulty eating.