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FAQs

Is radiation therapy painful?

You do not feel anything when the machine is actually delivering your radiation therapy; however, depending on the part of the body where you are receiving treatment, radiation therapy may cause side effects, some of which can be painful. Your treatment team will discuss potential side effects with you before any treatment is given and offer advice on how to manage any side effects that may result. With improved technology and more sophisticated methods of delivering treatment, side effects tend to be less severe than they were in the past.

Does radiation therapy make me radioactive?

No. The equipment used in the Cancer Centre to deliver radiation therapy — linear accelerators — use electricity to generate the radiation. The dose is delivered to the treatment area in an instant, so there is no lingering radiation once the treatment machine is turned off. As you try to maintain a normal routine during radiation therapy treatments, you can assure your friends, family, and co-workers that you will not expose them to radiation if they are concerned.

A small number of procedures carried out in the Cancer Centre do carry a small risk of residual radioactivity once the procedure is complete: PET CT scans and prostate brachytherapy. If you are attending the Cancer Centre for either of these procedures, you will be given full instructions on how to manage the risk associated with them.

Do I need to do anything to prepare for my radiation therapy sessions?

You will be given specific instructions based on your treatment protocol, but you do not need to fast. Prescribed medicines should be taken as normal unless you have been advised otherwise.

You may need to follow a special diet while on radiation therapy. If this is the case, you will be informed.  You may be required to fill or empty your bladder before daily treatment; the radiation therapists will inform you of any daily preparation that applies to you.

Any chemotherapy tablets you are taking should be taken exactly as prescribed in relation to your radiation therapy treatments. If you are in doubt, please do not hesitate to ask for clarification.

What if I think I’m pregnant?

If you are a woman of child-bearing potential, you will be asked at your simulation scan to complete a form declaring that you are not pregnant. A pregnancy test can be arranged if there is any doubt.

If you think or are unsure that this situation may have changed in the time between simulation and treatment, it is vital that you inform us. On first day verification, you will be asked to confirm that your pregnancy status has not changed.

It is also important that you avoid conceiving during your treatment. Radiation can damage an unborn child.

Can I skip treatment?

It is not advisable to miss your radiation therapy appointments. Keeping to the prescribed course of sessions is important for the treatment to work effectively. If for any reason you have a prior engagement, please make reception staff aware and they will do their best to accommodate you at an alternate time.

In the event that you are ill (including flu-like symptoms, vomiting, diarrhoea, etc.) we ask that you contact our reception staff before arriving to the Cancer Centre on 051 337444. Your clinical team will review your case and contact you to advise if you should attend while ill.

Occasionally, due to machine servicing or breakdown, your radiation therapy may be cancelled for a day. Your radiation therapy will only be cancelled if it is approved by your consultant radiation oncologist; this missed appointment time will be made up at the end or incorporated into the dose you are receiving.

Will I lose my hair while on treatment?

You will lose your hair if the area being treated is in the head and neck or the brain. The amount of hair lost will depend on the size of the area being treated. If you are receiving radiation therapy to the whole brain, in most instances, all the hair will fall out; it should return with time. If a smaller region within the brain is being treated, you may notice that the hair falls out in patches.

Hair will not fall out until you are well into your radiation therapy treatment, or it may even fall out when the course of radiation therapy is complete.

Can I drive during my treatment?

There is generally no reason that you cannot drive during treatment. Side effects from the treatment may make it advisable that you don’t drive — for example, if you experience fatigue or nausea.

The major exception to this, however, is anyone receiving radiation therapy to the brain; you MUST consult your consultant radiation oncologist about your ability to drive. Most insurance companies will not cover you in the event of an accident if you are receiving radiation therapy to the brain. Be safe and avoid driving!

How will I know if the radiation therapy has been a success?

When you are going through a course of radiation therapy, your radiation therapists, consultant radiation oncologist, and radiation oncology nurse cannot ‘see’ how the treatment is working. The only way to know the success of the treatment is by attending regular follow-up appointments with your consultant radiation oncologist. The first follow-up appointment will usually take place 4 to 6 weeks after your treatment is complete.