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Radiotherapy treatment

Radiotherapy uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells.

You have radiotherapy treatment in the hospital radiotherapy department. You are most likely to have treatment once a day, Monday to Friday, with a rest at the weekends. 

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.

Photo of a linear accelerator

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 following is a video about radiotherapy for cancer in general.

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 of treatment

Radiotherapy for vulval cancer can cause side effects. For example, It can make you tired, or you might have darkening or reddening of the skin in the treatment area. It can also become sore. Your nurse and radiographer can give you advice on how to cope with any side effects you may have. 

Last reviewed: 
26 Apr 2019
  • External Beam Therapy
    Peter Hoskin
    Oxford University Press, 30 Aug 2012

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    Souhami, R and Hochhauser, D
    Wiley Blackwell 2015

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