What your treatment will involve

Planning your radiotherapy

Your treatment will be carefully planned by a doctor called a clinical oncologist to make sure it’s as effective as possible. You will have a CT scan taken of the area to be treated. This scan takes lots of images from different angles to build up a 3D (three-dimensional) picture of the area.

The information from the scans is put into a computer that is used to help your doctors plan your treatment precisely. Treatment usually starts a week or so after your planning appointment. Planning is important and may take a few hours. During the visit, the staff in the radiotherapy planning department will explain what to expect during your treatment.

Radiotherapy masks

It’s important that you’re able to lie still, in exactly the same position, each time the treatment is given. To help you to do this, a special mask (or shell) of your head and shoulders is made. Before each treatment, the radiographer fits the mask over your head and neck. They then fix the mask to the couch to hold you in the right position. This ensures the radiotherapy rays are directed at the exact area each time you have your radiotherapy treatment.

The mask is made of a plastic mesh and designed so you can see and breathe normally while you’re wearing it. It is usually made on your first visit to the radiotherapy planning department. The radiographer or the mask room technician will explain the whole process to you before your mask is made. Marks are drawn on the mask to show the radiographer where the radiotherapy rays will be directed.

You will need to wear the mask for the planning session and you won’t be able to speak while you have the mask on. The radiographers will tell you how to signal to them if you want to communicate. Having the mask made won’t hurt, but some people feel claustrophobic at first. Most people soon get used to it. You will have it on for up to 15 minutes at a time. If you feel anxious, tell your doctor or nurse. There are medicines that can help reduce feelings of anxiety. There are also some deep breathing relaxation exercises that your nurse may be able to teach you.

My tip is to close your eyes when the mask is fitted and take slow, deep breaths. Ask the radiographers to play music during your treatment, as it relaxes you.


Having your radiotherapy treatment

Before each session of radiotherapy, the radiographers will position you carefully on the radiotherapy treatment couch with the mask fitted. They will make sure you’re comfortable.

The treatment only takes a few minutes. During this time, you’ll be left alone in the room. You will have to lie still while the treatment is given. You won’t feel the radiotherapy when it’s given. The radiographers will watch you using a closed-circuit television screen (CCTV). You can raise your arm to signal to them if you need to.

Some treatment rooms have CD or MP3 players so you can listen to music to help you relax during your treatment. If you’d like to listen to your own music, ask your radiographers if this is possible.

You may hear a slight buzzing noise from the radiotherapy machine while your treatment is being given.

Radiotherapy does not make you radioactive and it’s perfectly safe for you to be with other people, including children and pregnant women, throughout your treatment.

Back to Radiotherapy explained

Planning your treatment

Your specialist will plan your radiotherapy carefully to make sure it’s as effective as possible.

Possible side effects

If you are having radiotherapy for cancer of the larynx, you may have some side effects during treatment and afterwards.

Before your radiotherapy

Before you start radiotherapy, your team will explain what your treatment involves and how it may affect you.

Making a radiotherapy mask

During radiotherapy to the head and neck a mask is used to help you keep still so that exactly the right area is treated.

Your radiotherapy team

You will meet many different specialists from your radiotherapy team. You may see them before, during and after radiotherapy treatment.

After treatment

It can take time to recover from radiotherapy. Support is there if you have any problems.