Find out what happens when you have external radiotherapy for soft tissue sarcoma.
Radiotherapy uses high energy x-rays to treat cancer cells.
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 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.
It is important to lie in the same position each time, so the radiographers may take a little while to get you ready. They might use a firm cushion called a vacbag to keep the treatment area still.
Some people have a mould (shell) made to keep the area still. You have this made before or during your planning session. For example, you might have a mould over an arm or leg, or over your head and neck, depending on where your sarcoma is. This is put in place each time you have treatment.
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 takes anything from 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.
Radiotherapy can cause general side effects as well as more specific ones. Specific side effects depend on where your soft tissue sarcoma is in your body.