Glossary

For a glossary of terms please click here.

How do I find the Radiotherapy Department?

The Radiotherapy Department is located on Level A of the St Luke's Cancer Centre at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. When you arrive for your appointment report directly to the Radiotherapy Reception desk.

For more information and a map of how to get to the hospital and department click here.

Information on parking at the Radiotherapy Department

The Department has it's own car park (car park 3) for radiotherapy patients directly opposite the Level A entrance to St Luke's Cancer Centreand so has easy access to the Radiotherapy Department. There are also a small number of disabled spaces directly outside the Level A entrance. Like most hospitals the Royal Surrey County Hospital needs to make a charge for car parking.

Please note that there are only a limited number of spaces in this car park but the department is accessible from the main hospital (approximately 5-10 minute walk) and so you may wish to park in the visitor's car parking areas off Gill Avenue (car park 1). Staff are aware that some patients experience problems parking so please try not to worry, but if your appointment is between 9.00 and 16.00 you might like to allow a little extra time.

How do I get referred to St Luke’s Cancer Centre for Radiotherapy treatment?

If you wish to have your Radiotherapy treatment at St. Luke's Cancer centre you will require a referral from one of our Consultant Clinical Oncologists| or a member of their team. Your GP or hospital Consultant will have to refer you to them. You will be given a clinic appointment to allow treatment options to be discussed with you. This appointment may not take place at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, but at another hospital closer to you. Radiotherapy referrals are made following this consultation. We can only accept treatment referrals made in this way.

Can I receive my Radiotherapy treatment as a private patient at St Luke’s Cancer Centre?

The Radiotherapy Department at St. Luke's Cancer Centre treats a mixture of both NHS and privately referred patients. Referrals for a private consultation are made in the same way but your GP or hospital Consultant should highlight that you wish to be treated as a private patient. You will then receive an appointment to see one of our Consultant Clinical Oncologists. This appointment may not take place at the Royal Surrey County Hospital.

For more information on being treated as a private patient click here

Can the hospital provide transport for my appointment?

Hospital transport is not available to all patients. If you think you may need hospital transport for any of your appointments at the Radiotherapy Department you should tell your doctor when you see them to discuss your treatment. If you are eligible it will be arranged for you when your appointments are made.

If your circumstances change between seeing the doctor and starting your treatment telephone Radiotherapy Bookings on 01483 406632 or inform a Radiographer next time you visit the department.

For more information on Transport Services available, please ask at Radiotherapy Reception.

Can I get any help with travel expenses?

Patients that are in receipt of an eligible benefit may be able to claim help with travel costs incurred from attending a hospital appointment. The current list of eligible benefits is as follows:

  • Income Support/Low Income Benefit
  • Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit
  • Or holds a HC2 or HC3.

Costs can be reimbursed in cash between the hours of 9.00am and 12.00pm at the Cashiers Office (located in Level A in the West Wing). Outside of those hours claims will need to be made via the NHS Business Services Authority, using the standard form available from Radiotherapy Reception Desk or the Transport Desk (in the Main hospital). Reimbursements via the NHS Business Services Authority will be made by cheque to your home address.

Reimbursements are generally made against the cost of using public transport or a private car for travel to and from the hospital as well as any car parking costs. To obtain reimbursement you will need the following documents:

  • Proof of an eligible benefit
  • A hospital appointment card or letter
  • And, if travelling by public transport, travel tickets.

If you travelled by private car, mileage will be reimbursed using a standard mileage allowance based upon the shortest direct route between your home and the hospital.

Unfortunately, if you are not eligible under this scheme The Royal Surrey County Hospital cannot offer any funding towards travel costs, but help may be available to some patients through other organisations. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau| should be able to offer advice. 

What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy is the controlled and planned use of high energy x-rays,or similar rays (such as electrons), to treat cancer. It can be given in a variety of ways. For more information, click here.

How does radiotherapy work?

The radiation acts directly on the cell's DNA, damaging the bonds holding it together, thus preventing them from growing and developing. Healthy cells are more able to repair themselves and continue growing and dividing, but abnormal cells, such as cancer cells, are destroyed. For more information, click here.

Is the treatment safe?

Each treatment is planned with careful consideration to avoid as much healthy tissue as possible. Every patient is considered individually and a unique treatment plan produced. The Department has careful checking procedures in place to minimise risk.

Who will be looking after me?

Your Radiotherapy will be planned and delivered by a mixed team of specialist staff, including Therapeutic Radiographers|, Doctors|, Medical Physicists| and Technical Services|. The Radiotherapy Department is supported by an extensive team, including reception| and administration staff|, Radiotherapy Assistants|, Specialist Nurses|, Dieticians| and Porters|, who will help to look after you and ensure your treatment at St. Luke's Cancer Centre is excellent.

The Royal Surrey County Hospital is also a teaching hospital. Our Student Radiographers work as part of the team to gain valuable experience in preparing and delivering radiotherapy. An experienced Radiographer always supervises them, however, if you would prefer students not to be present during your radiotherapy please let your doctor or a Radiographer know as soon as possible.

Why am I having a different number of treatments to others with the same problem?

There are a wide variety of cancer types. Each type will have a variety of ways it can be treated. Your doctor or Consultant Clinical Oncologist will have discussed the most suitable treatment schedule for you. Each patient is considered individually so you can be sure that the treatment you are receiving is the best for you.

Do I have to stay in hospital whilst having Radiotherapy?

Most patients are treated as outpatients and travel to the Radiotherapy Department for each treatment. However, if the doctor anticipates any problems due to your health or the type of treatment you might be having you could be offered treatment as an inpatient.

Pregnancy

All female patients between 12 and 55 years will be asked to confirm their pregnancy status at their first appointment in department. If you are, or think you might be pregnant, please ensure that you inform your Consultant Clinical Oncologist, or a member of their team, or a Radiographer as soon as possible. 

It is important that you take precautions during your treatment not to become pregnant, however, if you think you might be please inform a Radiographer immediately.

Pacemakers

It is important that you inform your Consultant Clinical Oncologist, or a member of their team, that you have a pacemaker during your initial consultation. This is required as it is known that radiation can affect pacemakers. We will arrange a pacing check for you and ensure that any necessary precautions are taken. It is standard procedure that on your first day of treatment a doctor will be present and your heart rate will be monitored. You will also be required to go for a pacing check once your whole treatment has been completed.

What happens before my Radiotherapy?

You will be asked to attend the Radiotherapy Department to prepare for the start of your treatment. You may have an appointment in the Simulator, CT Scanner or Mould Room. Depending on the area you are having treated it may be necessary for you to visit more than one of these. This will be shown on your appointment letter. 

These appointments allow us to gain important information that will be used to plan your treatment and to decide on the best way to position you for your treatment. These appointments usually take a little longer than a treatment appointment. An estimated duration will be shown on your letter.

When you arrive in the Department, report to the Radiotherapy Reception. You will be shown where to wait. A Radiographer, or assistant Radiographer, will then show you to somewhere more private so that the procedure can be discussed with you in more detail and answer any questions that you may have. 

During this discussion you will be asked to confirm that you are still happy to proceed with radiotherapy. If you have any queries or concerns a doctor will come to discuss them further.

You will be asked to change into a hospital gown.

For more information please click here

Will I see a Doctor before I start my Radiotherapy?

You will either see a doctor or Radiographer before you start your radiotherapy who will explain any side effects that you may experience. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have. 

I have only just had a CT scan; do I need another one?

Yes. The Radiotherapy CT Scan is different to ones you may have had before as you will be scanned in the position that we need to treat you. Our CT Scanner is linked to our computer planning system so that we can use this scan to plan your treatment.

Do I need to bring anything with me to my appointment?

Please bring your appointment letter with you.

It will be necessary for you to remove some clothing for your appointments, and a hospital gown will be provided, but you might like to bring your own dressing gown.

Do I need to do anything before my appointment?

Any instructions you need to follow will be written on your appointment letter. Please read it carefully.

It is recommended that patients try to drink a litre and a half of fluids a day. This helps to keep your body hydrated, and can help to minimise the side effects you might experience once your treatment has started.

To improve your experience of radiotherapy it is strongly recommended that you stop smoking.  

What happens when I come for treatment?

Once you have booked in at the Radiotherapy reception you will be directed to take a seat in the waiting room. A Radiographer, or assistant Radiographer, will then come and show you to somewhere more private so that your treatment can be discussed in more detail and answer any questions that you may have.

During this discussion you will be asked to reconfirm that you are still happy to proceed with radiotherapy. If you have any queries or concerns a doctor will come to discuss them further.

You will be asked to change before the treatment team take you into the treatment room.

For more information please click here.

How long does it take?

Treatment times can vary depending on the area you are having treated but an appointment is usually between 10 and 20 minutes.

Will I always be treated at my appointment time?

All our staff endeavour to treat patients at their given appointment time. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, such as emergencies, this is not always possible. Staff will advise you, at the earliest opportunity, of any such delays.

Do I have to come every day?

Several different treatment schedules exist, not all of which will require patients to come every day. Your doctor will have discussed with you the best schedule for you.

It is very important that you try not to miss any treatments in your schedule.

What if I am unwell and unable to come for treatment?

If you feel you are too ill to attend for your treatment it is essential that you contact the department on 01483 406600, as early as possible on that day between 8.00am and 5.00pm. A Radiographer will discuss the situation with you. We would not expect minor illnesses, such as a cold, to prevent you from receiving treatment.

In the event that you are too unwell, or have to miss an appointment for another reason, an extra appointment will be added the end of your treatment course. For this reason it is advisable not to plan or book any holidays for the week immediately after your treatment was due to complete.

What do I do if I feel unwell at the weekend?

In the event of an emergency, which you believe is related to your disease or your radiotherapy treatment, please contact our Out of Hours Emergency Contact (Onslow Ward Reception) on 01483 406858.

In the event that you become unwell at the weekend with something which you believe is not related to your radiotherapy or disease, contact NHS Direct on 0845 46 47, and inform them that you are undergoing radiotherapy. They will advise you as to the best course of action. This may be to contact your GP or to report to your local Accident and Emergency Department.

Do I see a Doctor during my treatment?

If you are having 5 treatments, or more, you will be given an appointment to see the Doctor at least once during your treatment. At your first treatment appointment a Radiographer will advise you as to when these appointments will be. They will be at St. Luke's Cancer Centre, and will mean that you will have to be at the hospital for a little longer.  

We also run a Radiographer led review clinic within the department and you may also be seen by a specialist Radiographer dependent upon the area you are having treated.

If you are having less than 5 treatments it is not usually necessary to see a Doctor until after your treatment has finished.

If at any time you feel you would like to discuss something with a Doctor, please ask one of the radiotherapy team and they will be happy to arrange this for you.

Can I change my appointment times?

We are a very busy department, with approximately 170-200 patients on treatment at any one time. It is therefore not always possible to accommodate everyone's wishes but Radiographers will try their best to work around any issues or appointments that you may have. 

It is best to ask at the earliest opportunity if your require changes to your appointment schedule.

Will it hurt? Are there any side effects?

During treatment you will not see or feel anything. The treatment does have some side effects but these are not immediate and vary from patient to patient. Your treatment team will explain these to you and offer advice for reducing them.  Click here for more information on the side effects of your radiotherapy treatment.

Will I be radioactive during treatment?

No. Radiotherapy does not make you radioactive and you are safe to mix as normal.

Smoking during Radiotherapy

Smoking during radiotherapy potentially makes any side effects that you may experience more pronounced, and may increase the length of your recovery time. It is strongly advised that you stop smoking, or that you significantly reduce the amount that you smoke.

For more advice and support on how to stop smoking visit the NHS website at http://www.gosmokefree.nhs.uk/ or call 0800 169 0169. 

Can I drink alcohol during Radiotherapy?

Drinking alcohol whilst receiving radiotherapy is not recommended, especially if you are receiving treatment to the head or neck area. However, if you are especially concerned about this matter you should discuss it with a Radiographer, or contact www.nhs.uk/magazines/alcohol/ for advice on coping with alcohol dependence.

Will I still be able to drive?

Most patients continue to drive throughout treatment.  However if you feel unwell or tired it is advised that you ask someone else to drive you. Some patients are not allowed not to continue driving, your doctor will advise you of this, and you may need to inform the DVLA of your condition.

Will I lose my hair?

Most patients will not lose their hair. However, if you are having radiotherapy to your head or neck you may suffer some hair loss. Your Consultant Clinical Oncologist should have discussed this with you and an appointment to discuss having a wig can be arranged for you by a Radiographer.

Treatment to other parts of your body that have hair, for example your chest if you are male, can also be affected by hair loss.

Patients who suffer hair loss caused by radiotherapy may find that it grows back, but it often takes longer than it does after chemotherapy, and is often patchy. Your Consultant Clinical Oncologist will discuss this with you.

Can I colour or perm my hair?

Unless you are having radiotherapy to the head or neck area you will be allowed to colour or perm your hair as normal. Care should be taken not to allow any contact between these products and the area that you are receiving treatment to, and you should inform your hairdresser. If this concerns you ask a Radiographer for advice.

Can I still wear make-up?

Make up, perfumes and lotions should not be placed on the skin within the treatment area, as many contain metallic traces that are left as residue and can increase skin sensitivity and redness. A Radiographer will advise you of which areas of your body to avoid with these products on the first day of your treatment.

Can I swim or sunbathe?

It is possible to swim whilst on treatment as long as the skin is thoroughly rinsed afterwards and any chlorine removed by washing with aqueous cream or a mild unperfumed soap. Skin should be patted dry. However, if your skin becomes pink or irritated then it is advisable to stop until any skin reaction you have has gone.

Sunbathing is not recommended and the treatment area should remain covered at all times whilst in the sun during treatment. The skin will remain sensitive to the sun for several years after this so you may wish to use a high factor sun cream, total sun block or keep the area covered.

 

I would like to book a holiday after my radiotherapy is over; how soon can I travel?

Occasionally it is necessary to add extra appointments to a patient's initial treatment schedule, for instance if you are unwell or unable to attend an appointment for another reason. Therefore, it is advisable not to plan or book any holidays for the week immediately after your treatment was due to complete.

Please bear in mind that some side effects patients experience are likely to continue after the treatment has finished, such as redness of the skin, fatigue and sensitivity to the sun. You may therefore wish to leave yourself a few weeks recovery time before starting a holiday. In addition to this your follow up appointment with your Consultant Clinical Oncologist generally occurs 4-6 weeks after your treatment has finished.

I am interested in complimentary therapies; does St Luke’s offer any?

The Fountain Centre is located within the St. Luke's Cancer Centre. It offers a wide range of complimentary therapies, to patients and their family, and serves as an information resource. For more information on the Fountain Centre, click here.

What happens after I have finished my Radiotherapy?

Some side effects patients experience are likely to continue after the treatment has finished, such as redness of the skin and fatigue. A Radiographer will give you advice about how to cope with these, and provide a contact number for you in case you have any other questions after your treatment has finished.  You will be given a discharge letter to pass onto your General Practioner stating the details of the treatment you have completed. 

In addition to this you will receive a follow up appointment through the post to see your Consultant Clinical Oncologist approximately 4-6 weeks after your treatment has finished. If you have not received this appointment within 2 weeks of completing your radiotherapy please contact your Consultant Clinical Oncologist's Secretary, which will be written on your discharge letter. For a list of contact numbers, click here.

What do I do if I have any other questions or concerns?

If you, or your family, have any questions or concerns about your radiotherapy treatment, however big or small they might seem, please do not hesitate to speak to a Radiographer. You might like to make a list to bring with you the next time you visit the hospital so that you can gain all the answers you require.

It is also recognised that during this time you, your family and friends may be in need of a little extra support and care. St. Luke's Cancer Centre has links to many other support services, for more information click here.