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Radiation Oncology FAQ


 What is radiation therapy (radiotherapy)?

​Radiation therapy is the use of high energy x-rays which are used to destroy cancer cells, and to sometimes treat other diseases. The x-rays are delivered using a machine called a linear accelerator. Radiation therapy can be used with the intent to cure or to relieve symptoms such as pain. Your treatment will be carefully prescribed by your radiation oncologist and planned by radiation therapists to ensure the treatment includes all of the diseased area and limits the radiation dose to surrounding healthy tissue.​

 How long will treatment take?

​The treatment is given as an outpatient, Monday to Friday. Each treatment takes about 10-30 minutes. You should allow for an hour out of your day.

 Will I be radioactive?

​You will not be radioactive from external beam radiotherapy treatment. You can safely interact with other people, including children and pregnant women, at any time before and after your treatment, throughout the entire course.

 Will the treatment hurt?

​No. External beam radiation therapy itself does not cause any pain during its delivery. The experience is just like having an x-ray. You can hear the machine while it is switched on, but most patients will describe no sensation.​

 Will I lose my hair?

​The side effects of radiotherapy are local in nature. Hair loss may occur but this will be limited to the treatment area only.

 Is it safe to take vitamin tablets and herbal medicines?

​Before starting any medicines which includes prescription, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and alternative, natural or herbal medicines tell your doctor, radiation therapist or nurse. Some medications can interact with your treatment.

 Can I drive during treatment?

​In general, most patients will be well enough to drive whilst they are receiving radiotherapy treatment. If you are receiving radiotherapy to your brain, are unwell or are on strong pain killers, discuss with your radiation oncologist prior to driving a motor vehicle. 

 Do I need to wear a gown?

​If you need to wear a gown you will be given one at your first treatment appointment to change into daily. Keep this with you and please return it at the end of your treatment.

 What are the appointment times?

​We will do our best to accommodate your requested treatment time. However, due to unforeseen circumstances such as emergency cases, your dates and times of treatment may be subject to change. Should there be any changes, will endeavour to provide as much notice as possible and liaise with you to find a suitable alternative.

 What are service days?

​The linear accelerator (Linac) treatment machines has a service day once a fortnight. On these days some patients do not have treatment or their treatment appointment time will be different to their regular time. Please check your appointment schedule prior to attending treatment daily.

 What are treatment reviews?

​You will see a member of your medical team weekly or fortnightly to discuss your treatment progress and address any issues you may have. Let the front desk reception staff know that you are here for a treatment review.

 What is a multidisciplinary team (MDT) clinic?

​Multi-Disciplinary team (MDT) meetings are an important part of a cancer patient's care. Specialists from a range of disciplines come together at MDT meetings and review an individual patient's case. Specialists are then able to co-ordinate the patient's management plan and discuss what each sub-group can offer the patient during their cancer journey. This is recognised as best clinical practice as it offers each patient the best cancer treatment suited to them.

 Why do patients receive different radiotherapy treatment?

​Radiotherapy treatment is different for every patient based on many factors including the severity of their disease and its location. This means a patient will not receive the exact radiotherapy treatment as another patient. Each patient's radiation treatment is tailored to provide the best possible treatment, which ensures their cancer is treated and there is limited radiation on the healthy tissue. You can discuss this further with your radiation oncologist.

 Where can I park?

​For radiation therapy parking information please click here.
For Royal North Shore Hospital parking please see this page​.​