Post-operative radiotherapy for non small cell 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?

You have now had an operation for your cancer. There may be some tumour cells left behind and radiotherapy is given to treat any remaining cells. Radiotherapy is the use of strong x-rays to kill any cancer cells remaining. You will have 15 or 20 daily treatments Monday-Friday over three or four weeks in the Oncology Department at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

What will happen when I have radiotherapy?

Your treatment needs careful planning. This may involve having a special CT scan. You will then come to the treatment simulator a few days before your treatment starts. You will have some x-ray pictures and some marks put on your chest to show where the x-ray treatment will go. The purpose of this visit is to plan and check the radiotherapy so you may not have a formal consultation with the doctor at this stage. Of course any urgent issues will be addressed but others should be saved for the regular consultations you will have during treatment. It is often difficult to judge exactly how long this will take - it is possible you will have to wait a long time.

Treatment itself is quite painless and takes around 15 minutes each day. 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 see the doctor once a week during your treatment.

You may feel tired each day after your treatment and may have less energy as the treatment progresses. You will not be radioactive after treatment and you will not lose your hair.

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Will I have any side effects from radiotherapy?

A number of side effects may happen:

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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 can be found in the Addenbrooke's "Patient handbook" , the BACUP booklets "Understanding radiotherapy" and "Understanding cancer of the lung" . These can be obtained from the racks around the centre or by phoning 0800 181199. A video called "Radiotherapy & chemotherapy" is also available from the information centre at Addenbrooke's or by phoning HEP on 01222 403022.

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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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