Radiotherapy is the use of exact, carefully measured doses of radiation to treat disease (mainly cancer). It works by directing x-rays at the tumour to destroy any abnormal cells.
These abnormal cells are more sensitive to radiation than normal cells so will be destroyed. Normal cells within or close to the treated area will also be affected but they are usually able to repair. The number and frequency of radiotherapy treatments given will depend on the size and type of tumour. About four out of ten people with cancer have radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy may be used :
- to cure an illness - for example by destroying a tumour
- to control symptoms - for example to relieve pain
- before surgery - to shrink a tumour to make it easier to remove
- after surgery - to destroy small amounts of tumour that may be left
Radiotherapy can be given in two ways :
- outside the body (external radiotherapy) - using x-rays, usually given once a day as a course of treatment over a number of days or weeks
- within the body (internal radiotherapy or brachytherapy) - either by drinking a liquid that is absorbed by cancer cells or by putting radioactive material into or close to the tumour
Radiotherapy - A Patient's journey
A range of professional staff are involved in providing radiotherapy treatment :
Clinical Oncologists and Specialist Registrars - specialist doctors who treat people who have cancer.
Radiation Therapists (Therapy Radiographers) - the people who are responsible for planning your treatment, giving you your treatment and for your day-to-day care.
Radiotherapy Assistants - team members who assist radiographers in giving you your treatment and with your day-to-day care.
Support Workers - team members who help with your care as well as with the day-to-day running of the department.
Medical physicists - scientists who work specifically within the radiotherapy department. They are responsible for preparing treatment plans and ensuring the accuracy of the radiotherapy equipment.
Radiotherapy engineers - engineers who work specifically within the department and who are responsible for maintaining and servicing the radiotherapy equipment.
Radiotherapy appointment officers - team members who are responsible for scheduling appointments.
Reception and clerical personnel - people responsible for the administrative and clerical work of the department.
More information about how radiotherapy is used to treat different cancers.
Radiotherapy is painless and will not make you radioactive. You must tell us immediately if you suspect you may be pregnant.