Having radiotherapy with a pacemaker or ICD

You should be able to have radiotherapy if you have a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). A nurse or trained radiographer monitors the pacemaker if it is in the radiotherapy field. This is usually before, during and after treatment.

This is most likely to be for people who have cancer of the lung or breast. 

Pacemakers and radiotherapy

Radiotherapy can interfere with how your pacemaker works. Even when it is not in the treatment area.

The radiation can cause chemical changes in the structure of the pacemaker. And electrical energy disturbances during the treatment. It depends on the:

  • type of pacemaker
  • model of your pacemaker
  • dose of radiotherapy you are going to have

So, if you have a pacemaker, your treatment team will monitor you very carefully during your treatment. Some specialists can control some types of pacemakers remotely. The specialist is usually from your heart (cardiology) team.

When you finish your radiotherapy, your heart specialist will continue to keep a close eye on you.

Planning your treatment

Before you begin treatment your cancer doctor will talk to your heart specialist.

They will get a detailed history of why you have a pacemaker and the type of pacemaker you have. 

There are many different specialists involved in radiotherapy treatment. Your radiotherapy doctor and physicist are most involved in planning the treatment.

The physicist helps the radiotherapy doctor decide:

  • the best way of delivering the amount of radiation prescribed
  • the exposure you should have to a particular radiotherapy machine to get the dose you need

The physicist also makes sure the radiotherapy equipment is accurate and safe.

They are both aware of the safety measures needed for someone with a pacemaker. They plan your radiotherapy to limit the amount of radiation your pacemaker is exposed to.

Further information

Our general organisations page gives details of people who can provide information and support.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.

You can also phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They will be happy to answer any questions that you have.

  • Cancer and its Management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley Blackwell, 2015

  • Radiotherapy in patients with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators: a literature review 
    T Zaremba and others,
    EP Europace, 2016. Vol 18, Issue 4, Pages 479-491

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

Related links