Radiotherapy is a common way of treating cancer. The purpose of the treatment method is to cure or provide relief from the disease and to prevent relapses.
Radiation is concentrated to a limited area of the body in exactly the place where the tumour is found. The radiation damages healthy cells along with the cancer cells, but healthy cells are better able to repair themselves.
Radiotherapy can affect fertility in both men and women if, for example, it is used on the ovaries or testicles. If you are planning on having children, therefore, you should discuss the matter with your doctor before treatment begins.
Before treatment can begin, some preparations are carried out. These may involve visits to the doctor, X-ray examinations and trying out supports so that you will be able to lie comfortably when the treatment is given. It is common to visit the radiotherapy department a few times before treatment begins.
How is the treatment carried out?
When it is time for the radiotherapy to begin, you will lie on a bunk in the treatment room. The nurses will set up the radiotherapy equipment so that the treatment can be given to the correct area of the body. When the machine is properly set up, the nurses will go to an adjacent room where the treatment is monitored via a television screen. If you feel anything strange, you should signal to the personnel, who will then interrupt the treatment and come back into the room.
Radiotherapy does not hurt and it takes just a couple of minutes. The number of times that treatment is needed can vary from a single occasion to having radiotherapy every weekday for several weeks.
How will you feel afterwards?
Since the radiation affects even the healthy cells in the body, you may experience some side effects. The kind of side effects you will experience depends on factors such as the location of the tumour and how much radiotherapy you receive. Tiredness is relatively common, and you may also experience such side effects as redness of the skin, difficulty swallowing and loose stools.
The nurses and doctors at the radiotherapy department will provide more information and advice about how the side effects can be eased.