Radiotherapy: preparing for your treatment

When you arrive for your pre-treatment appointment, the radiographers will explain to you what will happen and carry out any preparation you may need. Please ask if you don’t understand anything.

You will be positioned on the pre-treatment couch and asked to lie very still. The position will be the same as the one you will lie in for your treatment. The couch will be moved into the CT scanner and you may hear some unfamiliar sounds. The lights in the room will be switched off and on during planning. You will not see or feel anything during the scan. The radiographers will leave the room to turn the scanner on, but they will watch you very closely through a large window.

Marks on your body

The treatment areas will be defined and marked out on your body using one or more small permanent reference marks (tattoos) about the size of a pinhead of coloured, permanent ink. These provide a reference point during radiotherapy. You will be asked to consent to the use of tattoos.

As these tattoos are made with dark ink, they may not show so easily on black skin. If this is a concern for you, ask your radiographer if there are any alternative options.

Sometimes an indelible pen may be used to mark out the field, although this option is not always available. If this happens, you will be asked not to remove these marks until the end of treatment.

Depending on which part of your body is going to be treated, it can be helpful to think about the clothing you wear to this appointment. You may wish to make sure that you wear clothes that cover up any marks.

If you are to have treatment to your head or neck, any marks will be made on your mask.

Changes to the treatment plan

Sometimes changes will be made to the treatment plan, for example the size of the treatment field may be reduced after the doctor has seen the plan. These changes can usually be made on the treatment machine. A change in the plan is quite usual and doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong.

Comparing treatments

It’s natural for you to compare your treatment with other people who have the same condition, but remember – your radiotherapy is planned individually for you. Each person's plan will be different including which radiotherapy machine is used and how many treatments you receive.