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What is Radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy uses targeted high powered x-rays to treat tumour cells.

How is it given?

The radiotherapy treatment used at the Hermitage Medical Clinic is External Beam Radiotherapy. The Radiation Therapists use a machine called a Linear Accelerator (LINAC) to deliver this treatment. Radiotherapy may be given daily over a number of weeks or in one single treatment. The length of your course of treatment will depend on your treatment site and tumour type. Your consultant will prescribe the optimum dose and schedule for your treatment. Radiotherapy may cause side effects which are directly related to your treatment area, for example a patient having prostate treatment may experience urinary and bowel side effects as the bladder and bowel are in close proximity to the prostate. The majority of radiotherapy side effects are temporary and subside a number of weeks after you have completed treatment, however there is a risk of long term side effects which may be permanent. All side effects will be discussed with you during the consenting process with your Consultant Radiation Oncologist.

How does it work?

Radiotherapy works by damaging the cells in the area we are treating. The aim of radiotherapy is to cause as much damage as possible to cancer cells and as little damage as possible to healthy cells. Radiotherapy uses high dose radiation to kill tumour cells with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Radiotherapy is fractionated (delivered daily over a number of weeks) which with this allows healthy cells to recover from small amounts of radiation damage. Unhealthy cancer cells are unable to recover from radiation damage and therefore they are destroyed.

Types of radiation used

Radiotherapy is delivered to patients using either photon x-rays or electrons. Photon x-rays are used to treat deeply seated tumours while electrons are used to treat tumours closer to the skin surface.

The Aims of treatment

The aim of treatment will vary between individual patients. Radical treatments are usually given with the intent to cure cancer or reduce the risk of cancer coming back. Palliative treatments are usually given to improve your quality of life by minimizing the side effects caused by cancer. Radiotherapy can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy or to facilitate surgery by shrinking the tumour.

The Radiotherapy Team

There are many professionals involved in the planning and delivery of a course of radiotherapy. The Radiation Oncologist will decide on the exact course of radiotherapy suited to you individually. The planning process is overseen by the Consultant Radiation Oncologist in collaboration with the physics, planning staff and Radiation Therapists once your plan is complete. All the planning data is electronically transferred to the Radiation Therapists for quality assurance checks before treatment can commence. The Radiation Therapists are responsible for delivery of treatment on a daily basis.

Patients are monitored closely throughout treatment by Radiation Therapists (daily), Consultant Radiation Oncologist (weekly), along with Physicists/Dosimetrists.