Appointments

Radiotherapy

How to get an appointment

The team treating you will refer you for radiotherapy appointments.

You will have a planning appointment first so we know where to treat you.

Changing or cancelling your appointment

Please call 020 7188 3160 to change or cancel your appointments.

Before your appointments

Please bring:

  • a list of medicines you are taking
  • all information about your pacemaker, if you have one

We'll call you before your first appointment if there is anything you need to do.

We have WiFi in our treatment areas. You can listen to your phone or tablet using headphones or bring a book to read.

During your planning appointment

Please book in at reception when you arrive for your treatment.

You will have a CT scan at your planning appointment. This is so we know where in your body we need to treat you.

This appointment can take about 1 hour.

For the CT scan you'll need to remove some of your clothing and we’ll give you a gown to wear.

We'll ask you to lie on a flat bed and the radiographers will move you into position. The bed will move slowly through the open scanner and back. You will not feel anything and nothing will touch you.

During the procedure we ask that you remain as still as possible and breathe normally.

At the end of the CT scan the radiographers will take some measurements. They may ask your permission to make some small permanent marks on your skin using ink and a needle. These marks show the radiographers exactly where the radiotherapy treatment needs to go.

Before you leave, we'll give you appointments and information about your treatment schedule. You can ask any questions you may have about your treatment.

Appointment schedule

Your doctor will prescribe the total amount of radiation needed for your treatment. This is split into smaller doses (called fractions). You get these over a period of days or weeks. Treatment is usually given each day Monday to Friday, and sometimes on a Saturday.

You might have one visit or lots of visits over 6 to 7 weeks.

Your treatment will start around 2 weeks after your planning appointment.

Having radiotherapy

Before your planning appointment, we'll ask you to sign a consent form. This is so we know you agree to have radiotherapy.

Your radiographer will ask you to confirm that you agree to having radiotherapy during your first appointment. They can answer any questions you have or provide more information.

Your radiographer will explain your treatment and any possible side effects. Please ask them any questions.

Before treatment you will need to change into a gown. You'll be in the treatment room for about 15 minutes.

The radiographers will help you into the same position you were in for the scan at your planning session. They will then move the treatment machine into position. It will come close to you, but will not touch you.

The machine will move around you to treat the area from different angles. Each area takes around 1 to 3 minutes to treat, and you will have the same areas treated each day.

It is important that you keep still during your treatment and breathe normally.

The radiographers will leave the room to switch the machine on. You will be alone in the room during treatment but the radiographers will be able to see you on a TV.

If you need help, raise your arm and the radiographers will switch off the machine and return to the room to help you.

Other types of radiotherapy

Brachytherapy works by treating the cancer cells from inside the body. It is also known as internal radiotherapy.

The source of radiation is placed inside or next to your cancer, as the radiation does not travel far. Brachytherapy is used to treat cancer on its own or in combination with other treatments.

Your treatment is designed for you. The number of treatments you have will depend on the type and size of the cancer.

For some types of cancer, you will need to make daily trips to the hospital. For others, you'll only need to come once. Your doctor will talk to you about how many treatments you need and any special precautions.

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a precise, non-invasive treatment. It does not involve putting any instruments into the body.

It uses a high dose of radiation to target small areas of the brain. The focus is on a very precise point so that it does not damage surrounding healthy tissues.

Your doctor will decide with you if this is the best treatment for you. The accuracy of the stereotactic radiosurgery allows radiotherapy to be given over a few sessions using a high dose each day.

You'll need to have several MRI and CT planning scans. This is so the doctor can plan your treatment.

Treatment usually starts within a few weeks of the planning scans. We can give you the treatment as an outpatient, you will not need to stay in hospital.

Side effects of radiotherapy

Side effects depend on which part of your body is being treated.

Your radiographer will talk to you and give you information about side effects. We'll also send you a letter telling you what side effects to expect and email this to your GP. 

The side effects from radiotherapy may be worse about 7 to 10 days after you have finished treatment. Any side effects you have may continue to get worse during this period. You may have side effects that you have not had before. The radiographers will explain this more and support you to manage any side effects.

Tell your radiographer if you're concerned about any side effects. This includes changes to your bowel habits (having a poo). They'll be able to support you.

The NHS website has information about the side effects of radiotherapy.

Skin care after treatment

Depending on your course of treatment, your skin may be red and sore. You'll need to continue to use a moisturiser. If your skin is broken, you’ll need to see the treatment support team for advice, and possibly a dressing. You may need to return to the department or visit your local GP practice nurse.

Carry on with the same treatment until your skin does not look red or feel sore. Slowly introduce your usual washing routine. If your skin starts to feel sore again, go back to using warm water and try again after a week.

Cancer Research UK has information about caring for your skin.

Diet and mouth care after treatment

If you changed your diet to cope with the side effects, continue with this for a couple of weeks. Slowly introduce foods that you stopped.

If your throat is sore, continue with the same mouth care that you used during your treatment. Eat soft food that is not too hot or spicy. Your taste buds may take 3 months or more to recover, and you may find that you have less saliva. It is important that you drink plenty of fluids each day.

Information and support

Dimbleby Cancer Care has information on coping with hair loss. If you do not have a wig and would like one, please ask to be referred to the patient appliance department. They will help you to choose and fit your wig.

Macmillan Cancer Support have a free booklet, Coping with fatigue, that might be helpful.

After your radiotherapy treatment

Sometimes people feel anxious at the end of their treatment. You will need time to recover physically and emotionally. Our Dimbleby Cancer Care service can offer you support and information.

You'll have a follow-up appointment between 2 and 6 weeks after your radiotherapy ends. This will be with a doctor at the cancer centre, or with the doctor who referred you for radiotherapy. We’ll give you details of how to make this appointment.

Contact us

For more information, please contact us.

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Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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