Radiotherapy for advanced melanoma
Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.
It’s usually given as a series of short, daily treatments in the radiotherapy department, using equipment similar to a large x-ray machine.
For advanced melanoma, radiotherapy is often used to help reduce pain and improve other symptoms. You may need only a few sessions, or a short course of treatment. This type of radiotherapy is called palliative radiotherapy, because it’s given to ease (palliate) symptoms.
Radiotherapy can be used to help improve symptoms when melanoma has spread to:
The skin or lymph nodes distant from the original melanoma Radiotherapy can help reduce the size of skin nodules or lymph nodes and improve symptoms, such as pain.
The bones Radiotherapy is the most common treatment for secondary bone cancer. It helps to reduce bone pain and swelling.
The brain Radiotherapy can help shrink a secondary cancer in the brain and improve symptoms.
Planning your treatment
The treatment is normally given in the hospital radiotherapy department as a series of short daily sessions from Monday to Friday, with a rest at the weekend. Each treatment takes 10–15 minutes. Your doctor will discuss your treatment plan and the possible side effects with you.
Radiotherapy does not make you radioactive and it’s perfectly safe for you to be with other people, including children, after your treatment.
Radiotherapy has to be carefully planned to make sure it is as effective as possible. It may take a few visits. On your first visit to the radiotherapy department, you’ll be asked to lie under a machine called a simulator, which takes x-rays of the area to be treated. The treatment is planned by a cancer specialist.
Marks may be drawn on your skin to help the radiographer (who gives you your treatment) to position you accurately and show where the rays will be directed. These marks must stay visible throughout your treatment, and permanent marks (like tattoos) may be used. These are tiny, and will only be done with your permission. It may be a little uncomfortable while being done.
Find out about external beam radiotherapy, how it is given and possible side effects.