Help- Advice - Information

My First Radiotherapy Treatment

In most departments, a therapeutic radiographer will speak to you prior to taking you into the treatment room for your first radiotherapy session. They will explain exactly what will be happening that day and confirm you are aware of what the treatment entails.

After this conversation the radiographers will take you into the
radiotherapy treatment room. They will need to have the area of the body they are treating exposed. Some departments allow you to change into a gown before entering the room and others will ask you to undress behind a curtain actually inside the treatment room.

You will then be asked to get onto the
treatment couch. The radiographers will make sure you are in the same position as you were when the planning CT scan was initially undertaken. The treatment couch is hard and some patients find it uncomfortable, so let the staff know if there is anything they can do to aid you.

The couch is then raised to a point under the head of the
linac. Nothing on the machine will touch you and most patients do not feel claustrophobic. The room lights will be dimmed, and the therapy radiographers will move you into the correct position for treatment using the lasers. It is important that you stay as still and relaxed as possible and try not to help them. Invariably if you try and help, the positioning stage of the setup takes much longer. Therefore, lying heavy on the bed and allowing them to move you will help speed up the process.

If your head or neck area is being treated then you may have had a mask made when you were in the
CT scanner to help you to keep this area still. If this was the case then the radiographers will place this on you now.

When the therapy radiographers are happy you are in exactly the same position as when you were
scanned, they may call out a series of numbers and co-ordinates to each other. This is all part of the checking process and you just need to keep as relaxed and still as possible. They will then rotate the machine around you to check the angles from which the machine will treat you. Again, you may hear them calling out numbers, where they are double checking their measurements and your positioning.

The radiographers will tell you when they are ready to leave the room to enter the control panel that is situated outside the main treatment room. There are several CCTV cameras positioned all around every treatment room that are solely focused on you. Should you need any assistance you can raise your hand and the radiographers will come back into the treatment room. 99% of patients never need to do this, but it is comforting to know you can! You will only be alone in the treatment room for around 10 minutes, so if you can manage without having to call the radiographers the whole process will be much faster for you.

During the treatment you need to
breath normally and not be worried about coughing or sneezing. If you cough or sneeze try not to move your hand to cover your mouth (Manners go out of the window here!). Invariably you will relax back into the correct position. Remember that the radiographers are watching you on the cameras and will stop the machine if they see you have moved or your treatment position has changed.
On the first day the staff will take some x-ray pictures to make sure you are in the
correct position. They may do this with conventional film or more likely with the digital capability of the linac. The machine will make a buzzing noise when these x-ray pictures are being taken, then there will be a short period of time when the machine will stay quiet and still whilst the radiographers can check these images against those taken during your radiotherapy planning appointment. If any adjustments to your position are required the radiographers can carry these out before any radiotherapy treatment is given. Radiotherapy is totally painless and you will not feel anything whilst the radiotherapy treatment is being administered.

Some departments in England will also place dose measuring devices called diodes on your skin. This practice is a legal requirement in many European countries and some experts predict it will become a legal requirement in England in the near future. The diodes are used to confirm you are receiving the correct dose. The arguments for and against the use of these detectors can be found on the diodes page of this website.

When the
treatment is over the radiographers will re-enter the treatment room and tell you when you can move. Please be aware that the couch goes up very high so please wait to be told before getting up off the treatment couch. Make sure you know when you next need to visit, as this will vary from patient to patient, and then leave the department and carry on you day as normal!

Reviewed: March 2015