My First Radiotherapy Treatment
After this conversation the radiographers will take you into the radiotherapy treatment room. They will need to have the area of the body they are treating exposed. Some departments allow you to change into a gown before entering the room and others will ask you to undress behind a curtain actually inside the treatment room.
You will then be asked to get onto the treatment couch. The radiographers will make sure you are in the same position as you were when the planning CT scan was initially undertaken. The treatment couch is hard and some patients find it uncomfortable, so let the staff know if there is anything they can do to aid you.
The couch is then raised to a point under the head of the linac. Nothing on the machine will touch you and most patients do not feel claustrophobic. The room lights will be dimmed, and the therapy radiographers will move you into the correct position for treatment using the lasers. It is important that you stay as still and relaxed as possible and try not to help them. Invariably if you try and help, the positioning stage of the setup takes much longer. Therefore, lying heavy on the bed and allowing them to move you will help speed up the process.
If your head or neck area is being treated then you may have had a mask made when you were in the CT scanner to help you to keep this area still. If this was the case then the radiographers will place this on you now.
When the therapy radiographers are happy you are in exactly the same position as when you were scanned, they may call out a series of numbers and co-ordinates to each other. This is all part of the checking process and you just need to keep as relaxed and still as possible. They will then rotate the machine around you to check the angles from which the machine will treat you. Again, you may hear them calling out numbers, where they are double checking their measurements and your positioning.
During the treatment you need to breath normally and not be worried about coughing or sneezing. If you cough or sneeze try not to move your hand to cover your mouth (Manners go out of the window here!). Invariably you will relax back into the correct position. Remember that the radiographers are watching you on the cameras and will stop the machine if they see you have moved or your treatment position has changed.
On the first day the staff will take some x-ray pictures to make sure you are in the correct position. They may do this with conventional film or more likely with the digital capability of the linac. The machine will make a buzzing noise when these x-ray pictures are being taken, then there will be a short period of time when the machine will stay quiet and still whilst the radiographers can check these images against those taken during your radiotherapy planning appointment. If any adjustments to your position are required the radiographers can carry these out before any radiotherapy treatment is given. Radiotherapy is totally painless and you will not feel anything whilst the radiotherapy treatment is being administered.
When the treatment is over the radiographers will re-enter the treatment room and tell you when you can move. Please be aware that the couch goes up very high so please wait to be told before getting up off the treatment couch. Make sure you know when you next need to visit, as this will vary from patient to patient, and then leave the department and carry on you day as normal!
Reviewed: March 2015