WHAT IS CONVENTIONAL Radiotherapy?
Radiotherapy is the use of high energy x-rays to destroy tumour cells whilst doing as little harm as possible to surrounding normal cells. For various reasons the cells that grow and divide quickly are much more sensitive to radiation than nondividing, resting cells.
In the brain most normal cells and certainly the important nerve cells (neurons) do not divide. This means that radiotherapy will be much more damaging to the tumour than to the surrounding brain. Nevertheless a great deal of trouble is taken to minimise the amount of normal brain irradiated.
HOW IS CONVENTIONAL RADIOTHERAPY GIVEN?
Radiotherapy is given in a course of daily treatments called 'fractions'. It is given at different intervals; daily, twice daily or every few days. The number of fractions or daily treatments will depend on your tumour type and fitness. Your doctor will plan the treatment individually for you taking all the factors into consideration. Radiotherapy is painless. You will not feel anything during your treatment.
PLANNING CONVENTIONAL RADIOTHERAPY
Before the radiotherapy can begin, the exact treatment plan, the radiotherapy dose, the number of fractions and the amount of brain that will be treated is decided by the radiotherapist. A radiotherapist is a doctor who specialises in the treatment of tumours using radiotherapy. The treatment plan varies depending on the type of tumour.
Your First Visit for Conventional Radiotherapy
Your first appointment will be to the mould room. To ensure that the radiotherapy is treating exactly the same area and that your position on the couch is the same each time, a perspex mask is made. This is called a shell. It allows your head to be kept in the same position and helps to stop it moving during the treatment.
This article has been reviewed by Russell Fitchett, Superintendent Radiographer, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
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