Practical things to consider before you start radiotherapy
There are some things to think about before you start your radiotherapy.
If you’re a woman of childbearing age, it’s important that you don’t become pregnant during your treatment. This is because radiotherapy given during pregnancy could harm a developing baby. Your doctors will be able to give you more information about this.
Before you give your consent for radiotherapy, you will need to confirm:
that you aren’t pregnant
that you understand you should avoid becoming pregnant during treatment (this means you’ll need to use a reliable form of birth control).
If you think that you may be pregnant at any time during your treatment, tell the doctors and radiographers immediately and you’ll be offered a pregnancy test.
If you’re a man having radiotherapy treatment, your doctors may advise you not to father a child during treatment and for a few months after it’s finished. You can ask your doctors for information about this.
Heart pacemakers, ICDs and cochlea implants
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If you have a pacemaker, implantable cardiac devices (ICD) or cochlea implant (a special implant in your ear), you must tell your oncologist or radiographer either before or during your first planning appointment. These devices can be affected by radiotherapy, so your treatment has to be planned to allow for them.
Tiredness is a common side effect of radiotherapy so you may need help with day-to-day chores. Although it can be hard to ask for help, family and friends are usually keen to do whatever they can. If you live alone or are caring for someone else, you can ask to see a hospital social worker about getting help.
Getting to your appointments and travel costs
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You may want to drive yourself to hospital for your treatment, but remember you may feel more tired as your treatment progresses. If you feel tired, it’s best to ask a relative or friend if they can drive you.
If you’re worried about getting to the hospital, let the staff in the radiotherapy department know. They may be able to arrange transport for you. Some local support groups and charities also provide transort.
If you have difficulty meeting the cost of travelling to the hospital every day, you may be able to get help with travel expenses. Some hospitals will offer reduced parking charges or reimburse the cost of parking if you’re having daily radiotherapy treatment.
Research has shown that stopping smoking during and after radiotherapy may make it more effective. It can also reduce the side effects of treatment. So if you do smoke, you should try cutting down or stopping.
Many hospitals provide help or advice on how to quit smoking. Your clinical oncologist, specialist radiographer, or specialist nurse will let you know if your hospital provides this service. If they don’t, your GP, a pharmacist or an organisation such as Smokefree will be able to help.
Work and further education
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If you’re working or in further education, it’s a good idea to talk to your employer or tutors, so they can make arrangements to support you and organise your time off during treatment.