During treatment

During treatment

Preparation

Any specific instructions you need to follow for your treatment appointment will be detailed in your letter, or will have been explained you by a radiographer at your previous visit.  Please ensure you follow any instructions that you have been given.


On your first visit

Upon arrival a radiographer will explain the procedure, discuss any side-effects of the treatment, and give you a current list of appointments.  Please feel free to ask if you have any questions, or if there is something that you do not understand.

During this discussion you will be asked to confirm your name, address, date of birth, and to provide a telephone number if we do not already have one for you.  You will also be asked to confirm that you are still happy to proceed with radiotherapy; this is called ‘confirmation of consent’.  If you have any queries or concerns a doctor will come to discuss them further.

For female patients, if there is a possibility that you might be pregnant, please ensure you inform a radiographer when you arrive.

If you have a pacemaker, please inform a radiographer when you arrive so that we can ensure the necessary arrangements have been made.

You may be asked to change into a hospital gown before a member of staff takes you into the treatment room.  You can bring your own dressing gown if you prefer.


Having radiotherapy

The treatment machine you will be treated on is called a Linear Accelerator (LA).  The treatment room is large with the machine to one side and a couch in the centre.

You will be asked to get onto the couch and lie in the same position as you were for your pre-treatment appointment.  If you require any help getting on or off the couch, please do not hesitate to ask.

Pen marks might be put on your skin, highlighting any tattoos, to help us see them when the room lights are dimmed.

The couch will move up and along to go under the machine. It may be necessary to move you, which the radiographers will do.  These small adjustments are to ensure you are in the correct treatment position.   You may be aware of the bed and machine moving.  Don’t worry, nothing will touch you and you won’t fall off.

When everything is ready for your treatment to start, the radiographers will tell you they are leaving the room, but they will be able to see you at all times.   When the machine is on it will make a buzzing noise, but you will not see or feel anything.

It is important that you breathe normally and remain relaxed.  You must keep still until one of the radiographers says it is safe to move.  Please do not attempt to get off the couch until you are instructed to do so.

On average you will be in the treatment room for about 10 to 15 minutes, with the treatment itself only lasting about 2 minutes.  However, this is dependent upon your specific treatment plan.

Images may be taken either before or during your treatment to check that your treatment position is the same as when you were planned.


After treatment

Once you have had your treatment you are free to get dressed and go home. Occasionally you may need to stay for a review clinic, held by your Consultant Clinical Oncologist or a Radiographer, have blood tests done or meet with the dietician.

As your treatment progresses your treatment team will be checking how you are feeling each day so they can offer help and support.

Please note that, after treatment you are not radioactive and are of no danger to family or friends.

Throughout your radiotherapy you will be looked after by a dedicated team of Doctors, specialist radiographers, nurses and other members of the hospitals support network. We are here to help you, so please let us know if you have any worries or concerns.


Doctor clinics

If you are having 5 radical treatments or more, you will be given an appointment to see the doctor at least once during your treatment.  You will be given details of these appointments at your first treatment visit.  These appointments usually take place shortly after your treatment appointment has finished for the day, and you will be directed where to go by a radiographer.

You may see the doctor alone or with a member of the specialist nursing/support team depending on the area we are treating.


Radiographer review clinics

The patient support team are a specially trained group of radiographers who look after patients having radiotherapy.  They run weekly clinics within the department and you will be booked into one.  These appointments will be on your list.  The team monitor and manage any side effects that you may have both during and for a few weeks after your treatment.

The review radiographers work closely with the doctors, nurses and other support professionals within the Trust to ensure you have the best possible care.

The team can also take blood and manage any dressing you might require.

You will meet your specialist review radiographer during your first week of treatment, and the team are available every day to assist with any problems or concerns you may have.

You can reach them on the following numbers:

  • Royal Surrey County Hospital – 01483 571122 ext 2066
  • East Surrey Hospital – 01737 277315

Blood Tests

You may be required to have a blood tests taken before your appointment with the doctor so that they have the most recent information to hand for your consultation.  Additionally, you may need to have routine blood tests during the course of your radiotherapy, and these can be taken by trained staff within the department.

Blood tests can also be taken at the following locations:

Royal Surrey

In Outpatients 2 on level B of the main hospital or Level B of St Luke’s Cancer Centre, between the following hours:

Monday 9am – 12pm
Tuesday 9am – 12pm & 1:30pm – 3pm
Wednesday 9am – 12pm & 1:30pm – 4pm
Thursday 9am – 12pm
Friday 9am – 12pm

East Surrey 

East Surrey Hospital 8am – 4:45pm  (Monday – Friday)
Crawley Hospital 8am – 4:45pm  (Monday – Friday)
Horsham Hospital 8am – 12pm     (Monday – Friday)

Radiotherapy side effects

Radiotherapy can cause some side-effects.  Details of these will be discussed with you by your Consultant Clinical Oncologist prior to starting your treatment, as part of the consent process.

It is important to remember that these side effects do not affect everyone and are dependent upon the area being treated.  Additionally, everyone is an individual and will react to radiotherapy differently.

The two most common side effects are detailed below.  For all other side effects please refer to your patient information booklet or ask a radiographer.


Skin reactions

Skin reactions are caused by inflammation to the skin and only occur in the area we are treating.  They are not burns.

Skin reactions vary from person to person and many people are not affected.  However, some people will experience a change in skin colour/tone and the skin can become tender or itchy.  This tends to become noticeable after 10-14 days and gradually builds up.  It will continue for 1-2 weeks after your radiotherapy has finished, and then will start to get better.

We will give you advice about how to look after your skin when you come for treatment.  Any reactions you may have will settle down a few weeks after you have finished your treatment.

Advice:

  • Moisturise the treatment area twice a day from your first appointment. We recommend that you don’t use anything too heavy or perfumed.  You will be given advice about suitable products on your first visit, and a  number of suitable creams can be purchased at the St Luke’s pharmacy.  If you have a product you would like to use, please discuss the ingredients with a radiographer.
  • Wash normally and pat the area dry.  You do not need to use a special washing product.  We only advise that all soap is washed away thoroughly.
  • Unless we are treating your armpit, it is ok to use deodorant.
  • Keep covered in the sun.
  • Drink 1.5-2 litres of fluid per day (this does not include tea, coffee or alcohol).  Keeping hydrated will help reduce the severity of side effects.

Tiredness

Some people can feel quite tired during treatment and this is due to a variety of reasons, such as having to travel to the hospital daily as well as the treatment itself.

Plenty of rest and drinking at least one and a half litres of water a day can help.  You should find that your energy levels improve a few weeks after your treatment has finished.

If you are worried about your tiredness, please speak to your review radiographer or CNS.  They may be able to help.

Information about additional care and support is available here on our website.

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