What is radiotherapy?

There are different types of radiotherapy, your doctor will recommend the type which is specifically right for you.

External beam radiation - where the radiation source is outside your body and is focused on the tumour - you will typically have treatment several times a week for up to six weeks, although there is great variation around this. You may have to attend for a planning session when it will be decided exactly where you will be treated with radiotherapy and the best position for you to lie in. In some cases, moulds are made to hold parts of your body still.

Internal radiotherapy where radioactive materials are implanted into the body to cause damage to the tumour. This can be a very effective treatment (see brachytherapy).

With advanced cancers, radiotherapy is sometimes given to control symptoms and improve quality of life. This is called palliative radiotherapy and is not designed to cure the cancer. Palliative radiotherapy tends to be given as a much shorter course than normal radiotherapy.

Being treated with radiotherapy can be a long, time-consuming process. But it can be a very effective way of killing or shrinking your cancer. It is often used after you have had the tumour removed surgically to ensure that every last cancer cell has been killed. This should lessen the chance of cancer reoccurring. Doctors don’t recommend radiotherapy lightly - they know it is a testing time for patients - but believe that for many patients it offers the best chance of getting rid of their cancer entirely.

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