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Speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line if you have any questions about radiotherapy, chemoradiotherapy, or your treatment options.
Radiotherapy treatment will vary depending on your situation. You will go to the hospital for each treatment but you won’t need to stay overnight.
Chemoradiotherapy is chemotherapy together with radiotherapy. The chemotherapy may make the cancer cells more sensitive to the radiotherapy, making it more effective.
You will usually have chemotherapy on its own for three to six months to begin with. You will then have a CT scan. If this shows that the cancer has not grown, you will start chemoradiotherapy.
The chemotherapy drug most often used with radiotherapy is capecitabine, which is taken as a tablet. You will have radiotherapy and capecitabine every day from Monday to Friday, for five to six weeks.
The team who will plan and deliver your treatment may include these health professionals.
They will work together to make sure the radiotherapy is accurately delivered.
Before your radiotherapy starts you will normally have a planning session, which can take up to two hours.
You will have a CT scan, and the radiographers will make tiny permanent dots (tattoos) on your skin. The radiographers will use the dots to help them get you into exactly the right position for each treatment session.
Some people may also have an MRI scan to help with planning. Your doctor will discuss this with you.
You may be asked not to eat for two hours before your planning session, but you might be given some water to drink. To make sure everything is exactly the same for treatment, you will normally have to do this before each treatment session.
After the planning session the radiotherapy team will make a treatment plan for you. This means there will usually be a gap between planning and the start of treatment.
The radiographers will position you on the radiotherapy table (often called a couch) and move the machine around you to different angles to check the measurements. You should try to relax and lie as still as you can.
The radiographers will leave the room but will watch you using cameras. You might feel the couch move as they adjust the position from outside the room. Sometimes you will have a scan before the treatment is delivered. This is to help make sure the radiotherapy is delivered accurately, but it won’t check how well the treatment is working. When the treatment is delivered, the machine will move around you. It may come close to you but will not touch you.
The whole process will take about 30 minutes. The treatment itself isn’t painful and only takes a few minutes.
You can go home as soon as each treatment session is finished. After the treatment, it’s safe to be around other people, including pregnant women and children.
Radiotherapy and chemoradiotherapy can be tiring, so having someone to drive you to hospital can be helpful, especially towards the end of treatment. You may be able to get financial help towards hospital parking or travel costs – ask your medical team.
Reviewed September 2019
Review date September 2021