Below is a list of questions that patients commonly ask about Radiotherapy. If the question that you have is not answered in the section below please feel free to phone the Radiotherapy Department on 01483 406600. 

About the department

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

For more information on how to get to the hospital and information regarding parking, click here.

The radiotherapy department at East Surrey Hospital can be found on the ground floor of East Wing.  The department can be accessed by car from Canada drive.

For more information on how to get to the hospital and information regarding parking, click here.

If you wish to have your radiotherapy treatment at St. Luke’s Cancer centre you will require a referral.  Your GP or hospital Consultant will organise this. 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.

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.

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.  A member of the admin team will call you to discuss this further.

If your circumstances change between seeing the doctor and starting your treatment telephone radiotherapy admin team on 01483 571122 ext 6714 or inform a radiographer next time you visit the department.

For a guide to district specific voluntary and Dial-a-Ride services, click here.

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 9am and 12pm 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.

About 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.

The radiation acts directly on the cell’s DNA, damaging the bonds holding it together, and 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.

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.

Radiotherapy does not make you radioactive and it is perfectly safe to be around loved ones and young children.

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 experience at the St. Luke’s Cancer Centre is as good as it can be.

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.

For more information click here.

There are lots of different types of cancer.  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.

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.

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 as soon as possible.

It is important that you take precautions during your treatment not to become pregnant.

It is important that you inform your consultant clinical oncologist or a member of their team if 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 member of the clinical measurements team 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.

Before treatment

You will be asked to attend the radiotherapy department to prepare for the start of your treatment.  You may have an appointment in the Fiducial clinic, CT scanner, Mould Room or a combination.

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.

When you arrive in the department, report to the radiotherapy reception. You will be shown where to wait.

For more information click here.

You will see a radiographer before you start your radiotherapy who will explain the procedure.  Please feel free to ask any questions you might have.

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.

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.

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.

During and after treatment

Once you have booked in at the radiotherapy reception you will be directed to take a seat in the waiting room.  A 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.

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

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.

Most treatments are delivered over a number of days or weeks.  Your treatment schedule should have been discussed with you when you met your doctor.  It is very important that you try not to miss any treatments in your schedule.

If you have any questions or concerns about your appointments, ask a radiographer.

If you feel you are too ill to attend for your treatment, it is essential that you contact the department as early as possible on that day between 8am and 6pm on 01483 406600.

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 to your treatment course.

For this reason it is advisable not to plan or book any holidays for the week immediately after your treatment is due to complete.

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, please contact your out of hours GP, NHS 111 or attend A&E.

If you are having 5 or more treatments, you will be given an appointment to see the doctor at least once during your treatment.  We run radiographer led review clinics within the department, so you may also be seen weekly by a specialist radiographer dependent upon the area you are having treated.

During your first visit a radiographer will advise you as to when these appointments will be.  They all take place at St. Luke’s Cancer Centre and will mean that you will have to be at the hospital for a little longer on that day.

If at any time you feel you would like to discuss something with a doctor or specialist review radiographer, please ask a member of the team to arrange this for you.

Please noteour specialist review radiographers are available everyday but our doctors cover different hospitals in the area and therefore may not always be in the department.  If the problem is urgent, we will liaise with another doctor.

We are a very busy department, with approximately 200-250 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.

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.

No.  Radiotherapy does not make you radioactive and you are safe to be around your loved ones and children.

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 visit RSCH Stop Smoking page.

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 click here for advice about support.

Most patients can 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 and your doctor will advise you of this.  You may need to inform the DVLA of your condition.

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.

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.

Make up and perfumes should not be placed directly 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.

It is possible to swim whilst on treatment as long as the skin is thoroughly rinsed afterwards, and any chlorine removed with washing.  Skin should be patted dry.  You can apply a barrier cream to the skin before getting into the pool for added protection.

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.

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.

Please discuss potential holiday dates with your consultant so that follow up appointments can be considered.

If you are being treated at the Royal Surrey, 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.

If you are being treated at East Surrey, the Olive Tree provides a similar service.

Some side effects patients experience are likely to continue for 2-6 weeks after the treatment has finished.  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 GP stating the details of the treatment you have completed.

If you or your family has 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.

You can call the patient support team on 01483 571122 ext 2066.


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