Radiotherapy tattoos

You have small tattoos or skin markings as part of the radiotherapy planning. These help make sure that the external radiotherapy treatment is accurate. 

Tattoo marks

During your radiotherapy planning session, your radiographer might make between 1 to 5 permanent pin point tattoo marks on your skin. For some types of radiotherapy, you might not have tattoo marks. 

Your radiographer uses the tattoos to line up the radiotherapy machine for each treatment. This makes sure that they treat exactly the same area each time.

Photograph of radiotherapy tattoo marks

Ink markings

Your radiographer might also draw marks around the tattoos with permanent ink pen. The room where you have treatment is dark, so this helps highlight the tattoos. This way they can be seen more easily. Don't try to wash them off.

The pen marks will start to rub off in time. They can rub off on your clothes or when you wash. Tell your radiographer if that happens. They can redraw them the next time you have treatment. 

You may want to wear older clothes next to your skin in the treatment area. Or you can ask your radiographer after each treatment, to remove the marks with a wipe. 

  • External Beam Therapy (Radiotherapy in Practice) Third Edition
    Peter Hoskin
    Oxford University Press, 2019

  • Devita, Hellman and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (12th edition)
    VT Devita, TS Lawrence and SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer Health, 2023

Last reviewed: 
30 Oct 2023
Next review due: 
30 Oct 2026

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