The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust


For information about brachytherapy treatment please click here

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Step 3 - External beam radiotherapy treatment

Starting treatment

Treatment is normally given daily, Monday to Friday, however your treatment may not start on a Monday. Whenever possible you will be treated at the time of day that suits you, but this cannot always be arranged or guaranteed. There may be occasions when you have a longer stay in the department or are asked to attend at a different time. Sometimes you will need to see your doctor or a nurse and your radiotherapy appointment will be arranged to accommodate these extra appointments. 

You MUST bring the pink consent form that you doctor gave you to your first radiotherapy treatment appointment. If you do not bring this form, you may have to be re-consented which may result in a delay to your treatment..

When you arrive for your treatment you should go to the main reception at the entrance of the radiotherapy department. Radiotherapy is situated on level B-2 in Bexley Wing, St James's hospital. The reception staff will book you in and you will be given directions to your treatment machine.  The treatment machines are called Linear Accelerators but we call them Linacs for short.

The radiographers will call your name and collect you from the Linac sub waiting rooms. The radiographers will discuss your treatment plan with you and explain any side-effects you may experience. Please ask any questions you want and it does not matter how many times or how many questions you ask. The number of radiotherapy treatments you will be having will be confirmed and you will be given a list with all the appointments you have in the radiotherapy department. 

During treatment

You can expect to spend 10-15 minutes each day in the treatment room.  For most of the time the radiographers are carefully placing you and the machine in the correct position for your treatment. The actual treatment time is for a couple of minutes and does not hurt.

Even though  you have the small permanent marks on your skin, the radiographers may need to draw around them each time you come for treatment. This is part of the quality checking procedure for your treatment. You may prefer to wear older clothing as the ink marks may discolour fabric. It is also generally advisable to wear loose clothing around the treated area. We may ask you to change into a hospital gown for your treatment. This depends on the area of your body that is being treated. The radiographers will let you know if you have to get undressed. Your clothes and belongings can be taken into the treatment room with you, so everything will be safe. If we do draw on you, it is ok to wash the marks off after your treatment as the tattoos are permanent. But don't scrub at the marks as this may make your skin sore.

Once you are in the correct position the radiographers will leave the room to switch on the machine. You will only be alone for a few minutes at a time. The radiographers will be watching you on a closed circuit TV monitor and can see  you all the time.  The CCTV camera is not recording or saving any images. There is also a two- way intercom system so the radiographers can talk to you and you can talk to them if needed.

When you are having the treatment, the machine moves around you and does not touch you. The treatment machines makes a buzzing sound when they are switched on. You do not feel pain, heat or any other sensation. 

On days when you have more than one appointment you can expect to be in the department longer than usual. Some days the radiotherapy Department may be very busy and your appointment time may be delayed. We will keep you informed of any delays. 

Regular service checks are carried out monthly to the Linacs. Generally you will be on the same machine for each treatment but you may be moved to a different machine if it is having its service check. 

Specialist support

The patient support team is available to provide additional care and support during your radiotherapy treatment. The team are led by the Macmillan Specialist Radiographer and Nurse. The team provides expert support to help those with: 

  • severe emotional distress
  • learning difficulties
  • mental health issues

If you need some support to get you through your treatment, please ask your radiographer or nurse to contact a member of the support team. 


big screens


The picture above shows one of our new Linac radiotherapy treatment machines with a giant TV screen above it for patients to watch videos