As the patient you are the most important person at the radiotherapy centre. Your well-being is of paramount importance to us and we strive to make your treatment as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Remember, you will be surrounded by people who know what you are going through so don't be afraid to ask questions or seek support from our staff.
The aim of radiation is to control malignant conditions. Radiation works by destroying certain cells within your body - fortunately malignant cells are more easily destroyed than normal, healthy cells. To get the best results, the treatment is divided into a number of small doses, which will be given to you daily. Different tumours need different types of treatment, so don't necessarily compare your treatment with that of your fellow patients, friends or family members.
Your treatment will be planned in conjunction with your radiation specialist. It is important to take the necessary time to plan your treatment correctly, therefore, expect this process to take some time. During planning we will use x-rays to locate the exact area that will be treated and then mark those areas with ink. If the area that needs treatment is in the head or neck, it might be necessary to make a mask of this area. The various pieces of information are then fed into a computer, which aids in the final planning of your treatment. This takes a further day or two. On completion you will be given an appointment for your first treatment session.
On arrival for your first treatment we will once again make a few ink marks on you, indicating the centre of the treatment area - it is very important that you don't remove them. If we have made you a mask, it has two purposes:
The radiotherapist will put you on a special movable bed, after which she will set up the machine accurately for your treatment. The positions and treatment times are checked by more than one person - something that you don't have to worry about. Unfortunately, we can't stay in the room during treatment, but we do watch you on a TV monitor.
You most probably know that having an x-ray is completely painless and radiotherapy treatment is exactly the same.
The number of treatments needed vary and may take up to six weeks. During this time your doctor will see you weekly. If you have any problems or queries during the treatment process please tell the radiotherapist and, if necessary, she will arrange for you to see a doctor.
For more information, please contact a Life Healthcare hospital nearest to you. For hospital contact details, click here
Reaction of the body to radiation
Each person's body reacts differently to radiation. Most people experience very few problems or discomfort. A few people may feel tired or nauseous - depending on the severity of the reaction it is sometimes necessary to give the patient a break between treatments.
Because the skin may become red or irritated, it is very important to follow these instructions:
Head and neck
Sometimes patients develop problems with swallowing, a painful mouth or throat, and small white sores in the mouth. As soon as you notice this, report it to the radiotherapist. We can prescribe medication to ease this. Avoid smoking and alcohol during treatment as they will make these symptoms worse. Your sense of taste might also be temporarily affected.
If your anus becomes irritated, don't scratch or use toilet paper. Wash it carefully with a soft cloth and lukewarm water - no soap - pat dry with a soft towel. Apply the prescribed cream. Wear loose underclothes made of natural fibre such as cotton. If your bladder is in the radiated area, your urine may burn and/or you may find that you have to urinate often. We can prescribe something to help with this. Female patients receiving treatment in the pelvis area must avoid sex for at least six weeks after the radiotherapy treatment has been completed.
Nutrition and radiotherapy
During radiotherapy the patient experiences various side-effects, depending on the type of treatment. We will now look at the problems that may occur and how you can adjust your diet to help alleviate them.
Radiation of the head and neck
Radiation of the abdomen
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea:
After this follow a light diet:
The following tips help for nausea:
Radiation below the diaphragm
Follow a normal diet but avoid the following:
Counsellors form an integral part of the radiotherapy team and are available for counselling sessions. If you feel the need, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with a councillor - they are there to provide additional support and all sessions are completely confidential.
If you have problems after hours, please call your local emergency service and the doctor on duty will help you. You can also phone the general practitioner where you will be helped with problems not related to your condition. If you need help with your colostomy or need a breast prosthesis, don't hesitate to ask.
After completion of your treatment you will come for regular check-ups so that we can monitor your progress. If you wish to change appointments, please let us know well in advance.
Please ask questions if you are uncertain about anything. It is completely natural to be afraid of the unknown - so please feel free to talk to us at any time.