Decrease text size Increase text size

Radiation Therapy Treatment

You may have just a few or many appointments when having a course of radiation therapy. Your Radiation Oncologist within BRICC will explain how many appointments you need. They will also explain if they are trying to cure your cancer of if they are trying to help to relieve your symptoms such as pain.

To cure your cancer, you are likely to have many treatment appointments. The total treatment course will then take a longer time to complete. It is also likely that the dose of radiation targeting your cancer will also be very high.

If you are having radiation therapy to help relieve the symptoms of your cancer, you are likely to have just a few treatment appointments. The total treatment course will be completed in a few days. It is likely that the dose of radiation targeting your cancer will be lower; however the dose is strong enough to help you feel better in time.

Each daily treatment is called a fraction. The reason for giving radiation therapy in this way is because each fraction damages the cancer cells a bit at a time. The time between each fraction allows the healthy cells to recover.

On the day of your treatment

When you arrive for your treatment each day, it is important that you report to the main BAROC reception on ground floor at BRICC. The administration staff can then inform your treatment team that you are here.

Once you have booked in you may be asked to change into a gown and wait in another waiting room. This treatment waiting room is only for patients having radiation treatment. It has a television, magazines, puzzles and a fish tank to keep you occupied before your treatment, although you won't usually have to wait long at all. You will be collected by a radiation therapist to go to your treatment.

Sub-waiting Area for Radiotherapy Treatment

What happens during treatment?

A large machine called a Linear Accelerator (sometimes referred to as a Linac) uses radiation to treat the small site of cancer within your body. You will have your identification checked prior to your treatment. You will be asked to lie on the treatment bed in the same position that you had your simulation CT scan. The equipment used in your simulation scan will help keep you in position.

The Radiation Therapists (RTs) will move you into exactly the same position each day, by lining up your tattoo dots with lasers in the treatment room. They will need to see the tattoo dots to do this, so parts of your body may be uncovered. The RTs will cover you with a sheet where possible. You do not need to help the RTs with your positioning. It is important that you stay as still as you can when on treatment. Often the adjustments to your position are only very small.

Once you are lying in the correct position, the RTs will move the machine to the correct position. They will perform some checks and leave you in the treatment room.

Linear Accelerator (Linac)

Treatment Machine

The treatment machine (Linac) is controlled from just outside the treatment room. This is where the RTs do further checks before turning the machine on and delivering your treatment. They are able to see you via cameras and hear you via a microphone.

The linac is equipped with devices that can take an x-ray image of the treatment area before your radiation therapy treatment is delivered. The x-ray images enable your treatment to be delivered very accurately. You may feel the bed moving when the RTs are making small adjustments before treatment, but it is important to stay still.

The Linac is able to move around you a full 360 degrees. The treatment is delivered in what we call 'fields'. A field is a radiation beam delivered from a specific angle of the machine relative to your body. The number of fields required for a treatment can vary, depending on the area being treated. Each field takes only a short time to be delivered. The overall duration of your treatment will depend upon the number of fields, but is usually around 10 to 15 minutes. Some specialised treatments can take longer. The RTs will tell you how long your treatment should take. It is important that you stay still the whole time during treatment. Please tell the RTs if this is difficult for you.

When you are having your treatment, the machine makes a buzzing sound. Radiation therapy is totally painless; in fact you cannot feel the treatment being delivered at all. It is just like having an x-ray.

Once all the fields are finished, the Radiation Therapist will come back into the treatment room. They will assist you down from the treatment couch. It is important to stay still until the RT says it is OK to move.

Radiotherapy Treatment Console