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Radiotherapy

Welcome to the radiotherapy department at Weston Park Hospital. We provide a radiotherapy service for patients from Sheffield and the surrounding region which includes Chesterfield, Doncaster, Worksop, Barnsley, Rotherham, Mexborough and Retford, serving a population of around 2.2 million people.

Treatment is tailored to individual needs so some of the information here may not necessarily apply to you. We will make sure that you are thoroughly informed about your own treatment when you visit the department.

All radiotherapy staff are committed to providing a high quality service to patients and their families. We continually try to improve the service that we offer aiming for a truly patient-centered service. If you have any suggestions on how we can further improve the service please do not hesitate to get in touch.

If you are worried about any aspect of your care please speak to the radiographers on your treatment unit, the nurses on the ward, or call any of the numbers below and we will be pleased to help you. Alternatively you can call your GP.

Patient Information Radiographer +44 (0) 114 2265282 can be contacted between 8.30 – 5pm Monday to Friday.  If your call cannot be taken, leave a message on the answer phone and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

Radiotherapy Department: +44 (0) 114 226 5292/3. Please call between 8.30am – 5pm Monday to Friday.

Out of Hours Emergencies: +44 (0) 114 2265300 – ask for the duty sister
After 6pm and weekends.

Your Experience

Radiotherapy can be a daunting experience, but it needn't be. In order to help demystify your experience, we helped create a video about what to expect based on Rita May's experience of Radiotherapy at Weston Park Hospitals.

Frequently asked questions

Where is the radiotherapy department?
What is radiotherapy and how does it work?
How is radiotherapy given?
Will it hurt?
Pregnancy?
Can I continue to smoke during radiotherapy?
What happens before I start my radiotherapy?
Will I see the doctor before I start my treatment?
Do I have to stay in hospital whilst having radiotherapy?
When will I have my treatment?
What will happen on my first day of treatment?
Do I see a doctor during my treatment?
Are there any side effects?
Who will be looking after me?
Will I still be able to drive?
What if I don't feel up to travelling?
What happens after I have finished my radiotherapy?
What do I do if I have any questions or concerns?

 
Where is the radiotherapy department?

Radiotherapy is located at the Weston Park Hospital on the lower ground floor. When you arrive you should report directly to the radiotherapy reception.

 

What is radiotherapy and how does it work?

Radiotherapy is the use of high energy x-rays in carefully measured doses to damage and destroy cancer cells. Cancer cells multiply and divide much more quickly than normal cells and if they are hit by radiation whilst they are dividing they will be damaged and find it much more difficult to repair themselves. Normal cells in the treatment area are also affected by the x-rays but they recover quickly. Every treatment is carefully planned so that healthy tissue is avoided as much as possible.

How is radiotherapy given?

The type of radiotherapy most patients have is x-ray therapy. Special equipment directs the x-rays to the precise area affected. It is painless and usually takes just a few minutes each day. There are several different machines in the radiotherapy department; they are all similar but can be used to treat slightly different conditions. Most people are treated on machines called Linear Accelerators (LA).

Will it hurt?

You will not feel anything during your treatment and there is no smell although you may hear the machine making noises which is normal. X-rays used in medical treatments are given in controlled, carefully measured doses. The aim is to treat the illness without harming the patient.

In regards to radiotherapy, once the machine is switched off the radiation is switched off. The radiation does not stay in the body so you cannot harm anyone else. It is perfectly safe for you to mix with other people, including children.

Pregnant?

If you are, or think that you may be, pregnant please speak to your doctor before starting a course of radiotherapy.

Can I continue to smoking during Radiotherapy?

We strongly advise you to give up smoking completely. If you smoke during the course of your radiotherapy, the radiation reaction for some areas of the body can be more severe. This in turn can make your recovery time much longer.

Nicotine addiction is now recognised as a medical disease and there is lots of help available for people who want to stop. Using the services available can significantly improve your chances of stopping and remaining a non-smoker in the future.

For help and advice on stopping smoking you can contact either the Sheffield Stop Smoking Service on freephone 0800 068 4490 or www.sheffieldstopsmoking.org.uk

What happens before I start my radiotherapy?

Preparation for radiotherapy is commonly done by using normal x-rays or having a CT scan. Your doctor will decide which is most suitable for you.

During the planning of your treatment we may need your permission to make some tiny permanent marks. This will be done by putting a pin prick of ink under the surface of your skin. These marks will be explained thoroughly to you if you are required to have them.

Some people will need to have a mould made of clear, lightweight plastic. This fits closely but comfortably over the area being treated, usually the head and neck.

We also sometimes make them for other parts of the body, for example the arm, leg or hand. These moulds are designed to make sure that you are in the correct position for each treatment. You will only have to wear your mould for a short time each day during treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Will I see the doctor before I start my treatment?

Before your treatment starts you will see either a doctor or a radiographer who will explain about the treatment and any side-effects which you may experience. You will be asked to sign a form to confirm that you understand and agree to the treatment. This is also a good opportunity to ask any questions.

Do I have to stay in hospital whilst having radiotherapy?

Most patients travel to and from the hospitals on a daily basis. If you are unable to travel regularly, for example due to living a long distance away from the hospital (for example); it may be more convenient for you to stay on one of our wards whilst you are having treatment. This can be discussed further and arranged with your doctor.

When will I have my treatment?

Everyone's treatment is individual so times and dates of your treatment will be discussed with you at your first appointment. Treatment is rarely given on a Saturday or Sunday. We may ask you to attend for an appointment on a bank holiday but this will be discussed with you if this is the case.

When we make your daily appointments we will try and make sure that the time fits in with your routine commitments and transport availability. A course of treatment can be anything from one treatment to a course lasting six or more weeks. If you have routine commitments which you wish us to work around it is important that you let a member of staff know as soon as possible prior to starting radiotherapy.

Hospital transport is available for patients who have a specific medical reason which restricts them from using their own transport or public transport and this can be discussed with your doctor.

What will happen on my first day of treatment?

Once you have arrived at the hospital, you should report to the radiotherapy reception on the lower ground floor.

You will need to check in by giving your full name to the receptionist and then:

  • Take a seat in the waiting room. In the waiting room there are magazines, vending machines, toilets and public telephones all for your use.
  • A room may be available for patients who do not feel well enough to sit in our main waiting area or alternatively for children who are having radiotherapy or accompanying their parents.
  • A member of staff will collect you from the waiting room. They will explain what is going to happen and give advice on how to look after yourself whilst you are having treatment.
  • You may be asked to change into a gown depending on the area you are having treated.
  • Every effort is made to keep you covered up as much as possible but it may be necessary to remove some items of clothing in the treatment room during your treatment.
  • The radiographers will ensure that you and the machine are in the correct position for your treatment.
  • Once everything is in the correct position you will be asked to keep still. Although it is important that you keep still, you do not have to hold your breath and can breathe normally.
  • The radiographers leave the room whilst you have your treatment. It is the only time you are on your own but you will be watched on television cameras from outside of the room.
  • If for any reason you need a radiographer you just need to wave. The treatment will be interrupted and they will come in straight away. 

Do I see a doctor during my treatment?

During the course of your treatment you will usually be seen once a week in the treatment review clinics. These clinics are run by doctors and radiographers to monitor how well you are coping with the treatment. This is also a good opportunity to ensure that you have the appropriate medications/advice to be able to manage any side effects that you may be experiencing.

You will be informed when you begin the course of radiotherapy which day of the week you will be scheduled to attend the review clinics. On the days when you are due to attend the review clinic it is practical to expect to be in the hospital for a little longer than on days when you are only attending for treatment. However if you have any concerns at any point please do not hesitate to speak to either the radiographer or the doctor.

Are there any side effects?

As with all treatments, radiotherapy can have some side effects. Your doctor will have decided whether or not to recommend a particular treatment by weighing up the benefits against the possible risk of any short or long term side effects. Your doctor will discuss the possibility of these side effects with you and will answer any questions you may have.

You may experience one or more of the following

Skin
The skin in the treatment area may become dry, slightly red or sore; however most patients are able to wash the area gently and the radiographers will give you full instructions at the start of your treatment.

Nausea (feeling sick)
Depending on which part of the body is being treated, some patients may feel sick. This is not usually a problem for most patients, but if you do have any difficulties please tell the radiographers as we may be able to give you some medication which will help.

Hair Loss
Many patients worry that they may lose their hair. You will only lose hair in the area that is treated and it may or may not be permanent. Usually the hair grows back after treatment is completed. You will be able to get advice about a wig through your doctor or your radiographers. If you are an outpatient there is a prescription charge.

Eating
If you are not on a special diet, for example for diabetes, you can eat normally. Depending on which area you are having treated, you may lose your appetite and find that food tastes different. It is important that you have good, nourishing foods and you may find that frequent small meals are more appetising than a large meal.

You should drink plenty of fluids, at least 2 litres (or 4 pints) each day even if you do not feel like eating much. It is important to tell either the doctor, radiographer or nurse if you feel sick, have diarrhoea or have problems swallowing food. We will either prescribe a suitable medication or make an appointment for you to see the dietician.

It is part of our job to help you through any side effects you may have. If you are having any problems or feel uncomfortable in any way, please tell the doctor, radiographers or the nurses.


Tiredness
You may feel very tired or have less energy than usual during and after your course of treatment. You can help yourself by taking time to rest and relax. If you have a short rest each day after having your treatment this will help. However, many people are able to carry on with most of their normal, daily activities.
Side effects do vary according to the area you are having treated. Please click here to view some of our patient information leaflets. If the leaflet you need is not here, please ask for it at your next appointment.

 

Who will be looking after me?

Both men and women work in the department. If for any reason you would like to be treated by someone of the same sex as you please let us know when you arrive for treatment and we will try to arrange this for you. During your treatment you may meet:

A Consultant Oncologist (a doctor who specialises in cancer treatment) along with his or her team of doctors, will be responsible for your treatment. You will not see them every time you have treatment, but you will see them to discuss your treatment when you attend the review clinic.

Radiographers are the people who prepare and give you your treatment. They are highly trained in radiotherapy and patient care, working closely with the oncologists and the medical physics department in planning your treatment.

Where possible you will see the same radiographers throughout your course of treatment. They can give you help and advice with any aspect of your treatment however trivial it may seem, so please don't be afraid to ask.

Research Radiographers

Research is going on all the time to make treatments as effective as possible and to reduce the risk of side effects. Our research radiographers can provide information and advice about radiotherapy trials and studies. They work alongside the doctors and radiographers in the radiotherapy department.

Student Radiographers

Weston Park is a teaching hospital and it is important that students gain experience of helping real patients during their training. Student radiographers work as part of the team in preparing and giving you your treatment but they will never work unsupervised.

We would appreciate it if you would allow students to be present during your treatment but if you would rather not have them involved, please tell your doctor or the radiographers.

Radiotherapy Physicists and Medical Technical Officers work with the consultant and radiographers to plan your treatment and decide the best way of delivering it. Medical physics experts ensure that the treatment machines deliver the correct treatment at the right levels according to national standards.

Will I still be able to drive?

Most patients carry on driving during treatment but if you feel unwell or tired, it is better to ask someone else to drive for you. If your consultant thinks it might be best for you not to drive, they will discuss this with you.

What if I do not feel up to travelling?

If you feel you are unable to travel on a daily basis for treatment, you might want to consider asking a friend or family member. If appointment times are difficult please speak to a radiographer. Transport is only available for patients with a medical need who meet strict criteria.

What happens after I have finished my radiotherapy?

Some of the side effects of the radiotherapy may continue for several weeks after treatment. We will tell you about these and give you instructions on what to do.

We will give you an appointment for a follow-up visit to an outpatient clinic, either at Weston Park hospital or your local district hospital, where you will see a Weston Park hospital doctor.

During and after your treatment you will have regular check ups. These checks, together with any necessary x-rays or tests, help the doctor to see what effect the treatment has had and also to keep an eye on your progress.

Most patients continue to attend an outpatient clinic for several years.

What do I do if I have any questions or concerns?

If you or your family have any questions about your treatment please don't be afraid to speak to a member of the team..

 
 

Additional Information

 
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