Radiotherapy treats cancer by using high-energy rays, which destroy the cancer cells while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. Radiotherapy may be used as part of treatment for both soft tissue sarcomas and bone sarcomas. It involves being treated for a few minutes every day, except weekends, usually for several weeks. The number of treatments will depend on the type, size and position of the cancer within your body, but the whole course of treatment for early cancer will usually last about 6 weeks. Radiotherapy is given in the Radiotherapy Department at University College Hospital, which is located in the basement of the hospital.
Patients receive high quality radiotherapy treatment at UCLH for sarcomas at all body sites, for children, teenagers and adults. The radiotherapy department has the most up-to-date equipment and consequently is at the forefront of current radiotherapy techniques. UCLH has been designated as one of two planned UK sites for proton radiotherapy facilities, due to open in 2021 and which will be especially important for sarcoma patients who need radiotherapy.
There are four designated sarcoma clinical oncologists: Dr Beatrice Seddon, Dr Franel Le Grange and Dr Mabs Ahmed who treat patients aged 20 years and over, and Dr Jenny Gains who treats patients aged under 20 years.
Your doctor will discuss the aims and side effects of radiotherapy with you in clinic. Before treatment can be started it must be planned. If your tumour is in a limb you will need to have an immobilisation cast made to keep the limb still, so that you will be treated in exactly the same position every day. This is made in the mould room. You will then have a CT scan wearing the cast, which is used to plan the radiotherapy. This process takes 2 - 3 weeks, which is why radiotherapy does not start immediately. During radiotherapy you will be seen every week by one of radiotherapy nurses, and at regular intervals by a doctor, to monitor for side effects.
One month after completion of radiotherapy patients are seen in clinic at UCH to ensure resolution of acute reactions and to set up a follow-up schedule.