Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays, such as x-rays, to treat cancer. It destroys cancer cells in the area where it is given.

Some normal cells in the area can also be damaged by radiotherapy. This can cause side effects. These normal cells can usually repair themselves, but cancer cells cannot. As the normal cells recover, the side effects usually get better.

Radiotherapy is always carefully planned by a team of experts and is continuing to become even more accurate. This means it can be used to treat the cancer more effectively, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.

You may have radiotherapy for different reasons:

  • Radiotherapy to destroy a tumour and cure the cancer (sometimes called radical treatment)
  • Radiotherapy to treat symptoms (palliative radiotherapy).

You usually have radiotherapy in a hospital that has a major cancer treatment centre. This means you may have some treatment at your local hospital, such as surgery or chemotherapy. But you may have radiotherapy at a different hospital.

There are two ways of having radiotherapy:

  • External beam radiotherapy is given from outside the body (externally) by a radiotherapy machine.
  • Internal radiotherapy is when a radioactive material is placed inside the body. It is sometimes called brachytherapy or radioisotope therapy.

How you have radiotherapy will depend on the type of cancer you have and where it is in the body.  Some cancers are treated with both external and internal radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy Masks

For most types of radiotherapy to your brain, head or neck area, you wear a mask during each treatment.  The mask helps keep you in position so your treatment is as accurate and effective as possible.

To watch a video that describes Radiotherapy in more detail:

Please note that, at present, the Radiotherapy department does not use Surface Guided Radiotherapy (SGRT) discussed in the video.

To learn more about Radiotherapy at our hospital, visit our Radiotherapy Treatment Suite page.

For further information on radiotherapy, you can visit the Macmillan website.