What is it?
Radiotherapy is a treatment where X-rays are used to kill cancer cells by stopping them from growing or spreading to the rest of the body.
Radiotherapy can be used to try to cure a cancer completely, to make other treatments more effective or to relieve symptoms.
Types of radiotherapy Radiotherapy can be given in several ways.
Your doctors will recommend the best type for you.
given by a machine – where a machine is used to carefully aim beams of radiation at the cancer
implants – where small pieces of radioactive metal are (usually temporarily) placed inside your body near the cancer
injections, capsules or drinks – where a radioactive liquid is swallowed or injected into your bloodstream.
Treatment is given in hospital. You can normally go home soon after external radiotherapy but you may need to stay in hospital for a few days if you have implants or radioisotope therapy. Most people have several treatment sessions, which are typically spread over the course of a few weeks.
What are the side effects?
As well as killing cancer cells, radiotherapy can damage healthy cells in the area being treated.
This can cause side effects, such as sore, red skin, feeling tired most of the time, hair loss in the area being treated, feeling sick, losing your appetite, a sore mouth and suffering diarrhoea.
Many of these side effects can be treated or prevented and most will pass after treatment stops.
The radiation from these implants or injections can stay in your body for a few days, so you may need to stay in hospital and avoid close contact with other people for a short while as a precaution.