Five things that you need to know about radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is generally considered to be the most effective cancer treatment after surgery. But what is radiotherapy and how does it work? Keisha Robinson, Head of Radiotherapy and Quality at Cancer Centre London, explains.

1. Radiotherapy is a treatment that uses high-energy particles to destroy cancer cells.

Radiotherapy uses high-energy particles or waves, such as X-rays, gamma rays or protons, to destroy or damage cancer cells.

Sometimes radiotherapy is the only treatment that you need. At other times, radiotherapy is only part of your treatment. For example, prostate cancer is often treated with radiotherapy alone. Breast cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy (which uses drugs to destroy breast cancer cells) and radiotherapy.

2. There are three methods of having radiotherapy.

You can have radiotherapy in three ways:

External radiotherapy: This is when a machine directs high-energy X-rays from outside the body into the cancerous tumour (lump).

Internal radiotherapy: This is also called brachytherapy. It is when a radioactive material is put inside the body near the cancerous tumour.

Systemic radiotherapy: This is when radioactive drugs are given by mouth or put into a vein. The drugs then travel throughout the body.

How you have radiotherapy depends on the type of cancer and where it is in the body. Before you start any treatment at Cancer Centre London, we create a personalised treatment plan for you on our computer system. We also carry out specialised quality assurance safety checks.

3. Radiotherapy is a safe and effective cancer treatment.

Radiotherapy is safe and effective. External radiotherapy only takes a few minutes and you usually have treatment over several days or a few weeks as an outpatient. This means that many people can continue their normal routine. Some people may develop side effects in the area of the body that is treated. We give you full information and advice about this.

4. Using the latest technology makes radiotherapy even safer.

At Cancer Centre London, we have a sophisticated machine for giving radiotherapy called the Elekta Versa High Definition (HD) system. This allows us to offer high-precision treatment for a wide range of cancers, including:

• head and neck cancer
• lung cancer
• breast cancer
• prostate cancer

We use the Elekta Versa HD system to deliver an advanced, highly targeted type of external radiotherapy to the brain, lung, liver and bones. This is called stereotactic radiotherapy. The radiotherapy is given precisely from many different angles around the body.

During treatment for left-sided breast cancer, we use the Active Breathing Coordinator (ABC) system. The ABC system aims to reduce the amount of radiation to your heart. This is called heart-sparing radiotherapy.

Our advanced methods of giving radiotherapy are more accurate and safer for patients.

5. You no longer need a permanent tattoo marking before treatment.

Cancer Centre London offers a relatively new method of ‘tattoo-less’ radiotherapy. This uses three-dimensional (3D) camera technology called the AlignRT system. We no longer need to make permanent markings on your skin to position you correctly for radiotherapy. The AlignRT system allows ‘live’ monitoring of your position and movement throughout each treatment session.

More information about radiotherapy

You can find more information about radiotherapy at Cancer Centre London here.
To book an appointment at Cancer Centre London, please call 020 8247 3379 or complete this form online.

Date: 09/02/2022