Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells while causing the least possible damage to normal cells. It can be used to in an attempt to cure bladder cancer (radical radiotherapy) or to relieve symptoms (palliative radiotherapy).
- Radical radiotherapy
If the bladder cancer has not spread beyond the pelvis, radiotherapy can be given to cure the cancer. Administering radiotherapy in lieu of surgery means the patient preserves their bladder; however, if the cancer comes back after radiotherapy, surgery may be necessary to rid the bladder of the tumor or eliminate the bladder altogether. After radiotherapy is given, regular cystoscopies are performed to check that the cancer hasn't come back.
Some patients may receive chemotherapy before radiotherapy to reduce the size of the tumor and lower the risk of the cancer coming back after treatment. Also, both treatments may be given together to make them more effective.
- Radiation Therapy Planning
Radiotherapy must be carefully planned in order to ensure that it is as effective as possible.
On your first visit to the radiotherapy department, you will have a CT scan done or you will lie down below a machine that will take x-rays of the area to be treated.
You may have small marks made on your skin (tattoos) to help the technician find the position more precisely so that the rays can be directed to this area. These marks must remain visible throughout the treatment. These are extremely small permanent marks, and you won't have these done without your consent.
- Treatment sessions
At the beginning of each session, the technician will carefully place you so that you are comfortable, as you must remain still during the treatment. Radiotherapy isn't painful. During the treatment you will stay in the room alone, though you can talk to the technician monitoring you from an adjacent room.