You’ll normally have an appointment at the clinic to see your clinical oncologist or specialist radiographer. They will discuss your radiotherapy treatment with you and explain its aims.
They will also ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you radiotherapy. No treatment can be given without your consent, and before you’re asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:
- the treatment – whether it’s external or internal radiotherapy
- the aim of the treatment – whether it’s curative or palliative
- the number of treatment sessions you’re likely to need
- the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment
- immediate side effects, which may happen during and for a short time after treatment, and late side effects, which may occur months or years later
- any risks of the treatment
- any other treatments that you could have instead of radiotherapy.
It’s a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion. You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment. We have a list of questions that you may want to ask your radiotherapy team.
People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it’s important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions. If you don’t understand what you’ve been told, let the staff know straight away so they can explain again. Some radiotherapy treatments are complex, so it’s not unusual to need repeated explanations.
You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can’t make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.
You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you don’t have it. It’s essential to tell a doctor, a radiographer or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You don’t have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.
If you decide to stop your treatment after it has started, you will need to discuss this with your doctors. They will explain what may happen to you and will talk to you about other possible treatment options.