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Having radiotherapy

Radiotherapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy ovarian cancer cells. 

You have radiotherapy in the hospital radiotherapy department.  You usually have treatment once a day. The number of treatments you have depends on your situation. 

When do you have radiotherapy?

Doctors don't often use radiotherapy to treat ovarian cancer. The main treatment is surgery, and most women will also have chemotherapy. 

You might have radiotherapy to try and shrink and reduce the symptoms of advanced ovarian cancer. This is called palliative radiotherapy. You can have this treatment to any part of the body where the cancer is causing problems.

How you have radiotherapy

You have radiotherapy in the hospital radiotherapy department. You usually have treatment once a day, from Monday to Friday, with a rest over the weekend.  For advanced ovarian cancer, you might only have a few radiotherapy treatments which you have over a few days.

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 radiographers 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

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 watch and listen to you on a CCTV screen in the next room. Depending on the type of treatment you are having, it takes a few minutes or up to 15 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 ovarian cancer has some side effects, including diarrhoea and tiredness.

Last reviewed: 
06 Feb 2019
  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    Tobias J. and Hochhauser D.
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

  • Newly diagnosed and relapsed epithelial ovarian carcinoma:ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
    Annals of oncology 2013. 24 (suppl 6): Vi24 - vi 32

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