What is radiotherapy

What is Radiotherapy?

8th Nov 2017

what is it?

Radiotherapy is a treatment where radiation is used to kill cancer cells. There are many ways you can receive radiotherapy, but they all work in a similar way. The main aim is to stop or damage cancer cells from growing or spreading in the body.

why is radiotherpy used?

Radiotherapy may be used in the early stages of cancer or after it has started to spread.

The treatment is used for the following:
  • To cure the patinet's cancer completely. 
  • Helping to make other treatments more effective – for example, it can be combined with chemotherapy (chemoradiation) or used before surgery. (neo-adjuvant radiotherapy)
  • Relieve symptoms if a cure isn't possible. (palliative radiotherapy)
  • Reduces the risk of the cancer coming back after surgery. (adjuvant radiotherapy)
Radiotherapy treatment is considered the most effective cancer treatment after surgery, but how well it works can vary on each person. 


radiotherapy at the beatson 

At The Beatson therapeutic radiographers use hi-tech machines (linear accelerators or Linacs) to treat people who have cancer. The machines generate x-rays for radiation therapy (radiotherapy) which help damage the cancer cells.

The Beatson along with support of Lanarkshire Beatson helps to deliver all the radiotherapy in the west of Scotland every year and is very much pioneer in new techniques and treatment. 

The cancer centre itself boasts one of the best equipped radiotherapy units in Europe, with thirteen Linear Accelerators. In total they deliver 7,000 courses of treatment a year. 

Research is also a forefront of radiotherapy treatment at The Beatson, with many potential life-changing projects including our very own funded radiotherapy research project. Find out more here.

Beatson Cancer Charity also fully funds four radiography based staff at The Beatson, including Consultant Radiographer and Lead Research & Development Therapy Radiographer.

Barry Caldwell, Clinical Trials Radiographer

types of radiotherapy 

The most common way radiotherapy can be given to treat patients is the following:

  • Radiotherapy given by a machine (external radiotherapy) – where a machine is used to carefully aim beams of radiation at the cancer.
  • Radiotherapy implants (brachytherapy) – where small pieces of radioactive metal are (usually temporarily) placed inside your body near the cancer.
  • Radiotherapy injections, capsules or drinks (radioisotope therapy) – where radioactive liquid is swallowed or injected into your blood.

Linear accelerator

side-effects of radiotherapy

Radiotherapy treatment does have side-effects and can damage some healthy cells in the area being treated.
This can include things such as:
  • Feeling tired
  • Pinkish skin
  • Hair loss depending on the area being treated.
  • Loss appetite 
  • Feeling sick/unwell
  • A sore mouth
Many of these side effects can be treated or prevented and the majority will stop after treatment takes place. If you are going through radiotherapy, check out these useful tips here
If you've gone through radiotherapy treatment we'd love to hear your tips and advice on how your got through your treatment. Just email us at info@beatsoncancercharity.org.

Find out more about the services we provide to patients at The Beatson here or why not find out about what chemotherapy is