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Having treatment

You will probably be asked to change into a hospital gown before you are taken into the treatment room. The treatment itself takes only a few minutes but each session can last 15 to 20 minutes because of the time it takes to set up the equipment and put you in position. The room will be in semi-darkness while this is done.

During your planning appointments you will be given instructions about what to wear or what you should avoid using during radiotherapy. You will also be advised if any specific instructions (e.g. full or empty bladder) are needed for your treatment appointments.

If you have had a support device made such as a mask, it will be used during treatment.

A shield made of thick lead-like metal may be placed between the machine and the parts of the body not being treated to protect them. This is called a multileaf collimator. An extra piece of rubber-like material or a block of specially made wax may also be placed on the skin. This makes sure that the skin gets the computer-planned dose of radiation.

Once you and the machine are in the correct position the radiation therapist will go into a nearby room to operate the machine. You will be alone in the treatment room but you can talk to the radiation therapist over an intercom and they will watch you on a television screen or through a window.

You can breathe normally during treatment but you need to stay very still while the machine is working. This ensures that the treatment is accurate. You can often listen to music while you are having radiotherapy to help you relax.

If treatment is needed from different angles the radiation therapist will move the machine several times. This is often done from outside the treatment room. It is important that you remain still while the machine is being rotated around the treatment table. The radiation therapist will tell you when it is okay to move. If you feel uncomfortable tell the therapist as they can switch off the machine and start treatment again when you’re ready.

You may hear the term EPID. This means electronic portal imaging device. This makes pictures of the radiation beam as it passes through your body. It helps to ensure your treatment is being given accurately – it is not used to see if the tumour is changing.