MEDICINES & HOSPITALS
Radiotherapy uses beams of X-rays to go into the body to kill cancer cells and make the tumour smaller. These X-rays come from a radiotherapy machine which beeps, clicks and moves up and down. A radiation therapist is the person operating the machine. He or she makes sure the rays only go where they’re needed and only in tiny amounts.
Some people having radiotherapy just come to the hospital during the day for treatment. Other people might have to stay in hospital overnight or longer.
When someone has radiotherapy, they need to lie really still. Radiation therapists may use masks, seat belts or even bean bags to help the person stay in the right place during their treatments.
You can’t be in the room when someone is having radiotherapy from a machine. But you can probably hang out with them soon afterwards.
Why are they so tired?
Like chemotherapy, radiotherapy is a strong medicine that can make people tired. The person you care about might need lots of rest – but this doesn’t mean the cancer is getting worse. There are things you can do together to help them relax. Go to ‘How can I help?’ for ideas.
Is Radiotherapy Safe?
The radiation from the machine doesn’t stay in the person for long. Sometimes you might need to wait a few hours to see the person you care about. The radiation therapist will make sure everyone knows what to do.
Why does radiotherapy make you sore?
Radiotherapy can make the skin red, sore, and/or itchy. This goes away with time. Soothing creams or wearing soft clothes can help.
Why have they lost their hair?
When people have radiotherapy on their head, it can make their hair fall out. They might wear fun hats, scarves or wigs – or show off their bald head! When they finish radiotherapy, their hair might grow back a bit differently, curly if it was straight or vice versa, or either thicker or thinner.
WHAT YOU MIGHT SEE?
All patients being treated with radiation therapy must lie on a narrow bed which is known as the treatment couch.
Radiation therapy is generated by a large machine called a Linear Accelerator which delivers high energy X-Rays or electron beams to a patients tumour.
The radiation therapists will control the machine from the room next door. They will be able to see and talk to to the patient through a speaker and they can pause the treatment if necessary.