Palliative radiotherapy for lung cancer

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This information sheet aims to provide a brief introduction to radiotherapy and explains the common side effects you may experience. This does not mean you will definitely get them. It is also possible you may get a side effect not mentioned here.

Why am I having radiotherapy?

The aim of this treatment is to ease the symptoms which the cancer is causing. You will have a treatment each weekday (Monday-Friday) over 21/2 weeks, i.e. 12 treatments in all. The treatment takes place in the Oncology Department at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.

What will happen when I have radiotherapy?

On your first visit your treatment will be planned using a machine called a simulator. X-ray pictures will be taken and marks put on your chest to indicate where the treatment will be given. The treatment itself takes place in another area of the department. You should expect to be at the hospital for the whole afternoon. The second and subsequent visits are much quicker and involve treatment only. You will see the doctor once a week during treatment.

Treatment itself is quite painless and takes around 15-20 minutes. You will be in the treatment room on your own but will be on a closed circuit TV watched by the radiographers and can talk to them over an intercom. You will not be radioactive after treatment and you will not lose your hair.

 Will I have any side effects from radiotherapy?

A number of side effects may happen:

Radiotherapy can continue to have a beneficial effect on the tumour for some weeks after the completion of treatment. For this reason follow-up appointments to assess how you are will be made approximately 6 weeks after your last treatment.

 Your doctor, nurse and radiographer will discuss everything with you and answer any questions you may have.

Additional general information 

The cancerbacup booklet "Understanding radiotherapy" can usually be obtained from the racks around the centre or alternatively by phoning cancerbacup directly on 0800 181199. A copy of the information film Chemotherapy & Radiotherapy can be ordered directly by email only

Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.

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