Browser does not support script.
Skip to main content
Find out how we produce our information|
Radiotherapy| treats cancer by using high-energy x-rays, which destroy the cancer cells while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.
Radiotherapy is most often used to try to shrink the cancer if it’s causing pain, or to treat cancer that has spread to the brain| or the bones|.
The treatment is given in the hospital radiotherapy department as an outpatient. Radiotherapy is often given as sessions called fractions. When used to relieve symptoms, it’s usually given for a few minutes every day for a few days. Your doctor will discuss the treatment with you.
After being positioned, you’ll be left alone for a few minutes while treatment is given, but you can still talk to your radiographer through an intercom.
Radiotherapy can cause general side effects such as tiredness (fatigue)|. Other side effects depend on the part of the body being treated but are usually mild when the radiotherapy is given to relieve symptoms. The doctor who plans your radiotherapy (clinical oncologist) will be able to advise you about what to expect. Usually side effects disappear gradually once your course of treatment is over, but it’s important to let your doctor know if they continue.
Dr Vincent Khoo explains what to expect if you are having external radiotherapy, and shows a machine working.
Content last reviewed: 1 January 2013
Next planned review: 2015
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
If you have any questions about Macmillan we would love to hear from you| .
You can also follow us| on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube.
© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
what are these?|