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When you first attend the Spire Oncology Centre, a Therapy Radiographer will explain the treatment process and will discuss any possible side effects and their management during and after radiotherapy.
Your first appointment at the Spire Oncology Centre will be for planning purposes. To begin with, the radiographers will make an immobilisation mask (detailed further in this information booklet). The mask helps to ensure your position is replicated for treatment daily. You will then have a CT scan whilst wearing your mask, which will be used to plan your radiotherapy treatment. The Therapy Radiographers will put some marks on the mask. In some cases, you may need an MRI scan to provide additional information for your treatment planning. Following this, your next appointment will be for your first radiotherapy treatment.
Chemotherapy may be given on certain days during your radiotherapy course. Your Clinical Oncologist will discuss this with you and provide written information if this option is applicable to you.
Before your first visit you may have been recommended to have an oral care assessment with your own or hospital dentist. Any dental work may be difficult during and for a time after treatment, so it is essential that it be completed before the treatment process begins.
Some patients may require a feeding tube to be fitted prior to the commencement of radiotherapy. This is used if swallowing becomes difficult. The tube allows liquid feed to move into the stomach bypassing
the throat. It can be hidden under your clothes when not in use. Your doctor will discuss this with you if they feel it may be necessary for you to have a feeding tube.
The purpose of the immobilisation shell is to ensure the head and neck area is in the same position every time you are treated and to help to keep you still while you are having the treatment. Any marks that
are used to help get you into the correct position for treatment will be placed on the mask and not on your skin. The mask is made with you lying in the treatment position (usually on your back, with your arms by your side). A support is placed under your head that tilts your head to the correct position.
A plastic mesh material will be warmed and softened in water until it is flexible. The radiographers will place this mesh over your face and head, gently moulding it around you. You will need to lie still for a few minutes until it has set and can be lifted off. You will be able to breathe normally and will be able to hear the radiographers throughout the procedure.
The mask should be a snug fit to ensure that your position is accurate and reproducible on a daily basis. If you wear dentures, you may be asked to remove them before the mask is made and subsequently for each radiotherapy treatment.
The Therapy Radiographers will ask you to lie on the couch in the same position you were in at the CT planning appointment. They will use the marks on your immobilisation mask to accurately align you for treatment. When you are in the correct position, the Therapy Radiographers will inform you that they are leaving the room. You will be asked to remain as still as possible and breathe normally. The radiographers will be watching you on closed circuit cameras and can speak to you via an intercom system. The radiotherapy machine will move around you, it will not touch you and there is nothing to feel or see whilst the radiotherapy treatment is taking place. This treatment will not take long.
You will be given time to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with the Therapy Radiographers before you start the treatment.
Side effects occur because of the effect of radiation on normal cells in the treatment volume. They can vary from individual to individual and most are temporary as normal tissue will start to recover when the radiotherapy has finished.