What is external beam radiotherapy?

The treatment is given in the hospital radiotherapy department as a series of short daily sessions. Each treatment takes 10–15 minutes. They are usually given from Monday–Friday, with a rest at the weekend. Your doctor will discuss the treatment and possible side effects with you. A course of radiotherapy for womb cancer may last up to five weeks. It’s usually given to you as an outpatient.

External radiotherapy does not make you radioactive and it is safe for you to be with other people, including children, after your treatment.

Planning your radiotherapy

Radiotherapy has to be carefully planned to make sure it’s as effective as possible. It’s planned by a cancer specialist (clinical oncologist) and it may take a few visits.

On your first visit to the radiotherapy department, you’ll be asked to have a CT scan or lie under a machine called a simulator, which takes x-rays of the area to be treated.

You may need some small marks made on your skin to help the radiographer (who gives you your treatment) position you accurately and to show where the rays will be directed. These marks must stay visible throughout your treatment, and permanent marks (like tiny tattoos) are usually used. These are extremely small, and will only be done with your permission. It may be a little uncomfortable while they are done.

Treatment sessions

At the beginning of each session of radiotherapy, the radiographer will position you carefully on the couch and make sure you are comfortable. You'll be alone in the room during your treatment, but you can talk to the radiographer who will watch you from the next room. Radiotherapy is not painful, but you will have to lie still for a few minutes during the treatment.