Common Questions and Answers
Below are some of the most common questions asked when patients attend for radiotherapy simulation and radiotherapy treatment. For more information please click on the links in the left hand column.
Who will actually deliver my Radiotherapy Treatment?
The member of staff who is directly responsible for the daily delivery of a patient's radiotherapy treatment, is called a therapeutic radiographer or radiation therapist. Their responsibilities include booking patients treatment, planning the treatment, processing and checking all the planning and treatment data prior to the treatment start date, inputting of all the treatment data into the treatment systems, and actually administering the radiotherapy treatment using the treatment machines. They are the patients daily source of contact, for help and advice.
What is curative treatment?
Curative or radical radiotherapy treatment, is planned and delivered with the aim of curing the cancer.
What is palliative treatment?
Palliative treatment is planned and delivered with the aim to relieve symptoms, when it is not possible to achieve a cure. Lower doses over a shorter period of time are normally given, compared to that of radical/ curative treatment, to account for the patients medical condition.
Will I be radioactive after my treatment?
Radiotherapy is painless and will not make you radioactive, so it will be perfectly safe for you to be around other people, including children and animals.
Can I be around pregnant women?
Radiotherapy will not make you radioactive, so it will be perfectly safe for you to be around pregnant women.
Why can’t you give all the treatment in 1 visit?
The clinical oncologist prescribes a total dose of radiation for your radiotherapy treatment and sets the amount of days this will be given over. It is not normally possible to give this dose in one visit because the healthy tissue needs time to recover, in between each treatment. Normal healthy tissue has a tolerance which limits the amount of radiation it can receive without causing harm. Some tissues, like the lens of your eye, have a very low radiation tolerance and can only be given a small dose before cataracts are likely to form. The planning team consider all the tolerances of all the tissues in and around the area that the oncologist wants to irradiate, to ensure you get the best possible treatment.
Do you feel anything when having radiotherapy treatment?
Radiotherapy treatment is painless and you will not feel anything when the linac is treating. When treating in or close to the brain a very few ( <1%) patients report they can see coloured spots in their vision similar to that of an aura migraine. This reaction is thought to be because the nerves are being affected by the treatment.
Will radiotherapy make my hair fall out?
Radiotherapy will not make all of your hair fall out. Certain chemotherapy drugs may, but radiotherapy does not. Your hair in the area being treated may thin and fall out. The hair that falls out is only the hair located at the entry or exit position of the beam. If your brain is being treated some of the hair on your head may fall out. If we are treating your pelvis, some of your pubic hair may fall out. In general most of the hair that has fallen out re-grows and if there is a small patch that does not grow back a good hairdresser should be able to cover it with a clever hair cut.
Does radiotherapy make you sick?
In general radiotherapy will not make you feel nauseous. If a lot of your gut (stomach, liver) is located within the treatment area you may feel nauseous, but your Clinical Oncologist would have explained this to you in your initial consultation and probably prescribed anti-sickness (Anti-Emetic) medication to prevent this. Some chemotherapy drugs may make you feel sick as they affect your whole body (systemic treatment) - radiotherapy is localised so therefore does not have this effect.
Can I bring a member of my family or a friend in with me during my treatment?
You are welcome to bring a member of your family or a friend to the radiotherapy department. Often it is helpful to have another pair of ears, especially on your first day, as there is a lot of information to take in. Family members are generally not allowed in the treatment room, unless the patient is a child or has learning difficulties. This is because radiographers need to be able to concentrate and make sure the treatment they are giving is accurate. Your friend / family member may be able to see the treatment machine after your treatment if there are not other patients waiting. Ask the radiographers if you are interested in doing this.
Reviewed: March 2015