Bone and Soft Tissue Tumour Service

Radiotherapy treatment

This page contains information about radiotherapy given as part of the treatment for bone or soft tissue tumours.

For most patients with a bone or soft tissue tumour, surgery is the first treatment. However, in some cases radiotherapy is given first.


Radiotherapy after surgery

After surgery, and when the final pathology test results are available, our team of healthcare professionals will discuss the patient’s case again. If the team decides that radiotherapy is needed, the patient will meet the clinical oncologist to discuss treatment.

The doctor will explain what treatment with radiotherapy involves, the benefits and the short-term and long-term side effects.

The patient will be asked to sign a consent form for treatment and arrangements will be made for planning and treatment to start. Radiotherapy is usually given six weeks after surgery if the wound has healed well.

Treatment

Planning for radiotherapy treatment usually takes three to four weeks - depending on wound healing and the complexity of the treatment to be delivered. This will involve two to three visits to our centre.

To plan treatment, patients need a CT scan which our team uses to decide how treatment should be delivered, and write a treatment plan.

Once planning is completed, a course of radiotherapy treatment is given using one of the ‘linear accelerators’ or ‘Tomotherapy unit’ machines.

Accurate treatment

Some patients receive radiotherapy treatment every day - Monday to Friday - for 25 to 33 sessions. It is very important that we treat patients accurately and treat the same part of the body every day.

To help you to lie comfortably in the correct position for every treatment, a special rest to keep you immobilised will be made for you. You will visit the the mould room for this.

Each treatment takes around 30 minutes, but most of the time is spent positioning you accurately for treatment. The actual treatment takes 5-10 minutes.

Side effects

The radiographers will give you information on side effects and how to care for yourself during treatment.

The treatment process is painless and many patients continue with their normal daily lives. The radiographers will support you during your course of treatment and you will have a review with a clinician each week to review possible side effects.

You can find more information about radiotherapy, and a virtual tour of the department in the radiotherapy section of the website.

Soft tissue sarcoma of a limb

Surgery which preserves the limb is the standard way to care for limb soft tissue sarcoma. Radiotherapy may also be given before or after surgery.

At the Freeman Hospital’s Northern Centre for Cancer Care (NCCC), most limb sarcoma radiotherapy is given by ‘intensity modulated radiotherapy’ (IMRT).

IMRT delivers radiotherapy to the area of high risk - the tumour bed. The radiotherapy dose to surrounding structures - such as normal soft tissue, bone, testis and spinal cord - is reduced. This is thought to decrease the long-term side effects of the treatment.

IMRT might not be always necessary, and some patients can have ‘conformal 3D radiotherapy’, which will achieve the same outcome.

Soft tissue sarcoma in other areas of the body

Soft tissue sarcomas can appear in other areas of the body. If the tumour is close to vital organs, it might make it more difficult to deliver radiotherapy, and the benefits of treatment must be weighed against potential side-effects.

Proton radiotherapy may be considered for sarcoma at the base of the skull and around the spine and in some other special situations as agreed by the National Proton Panel. At the present time, proton radiotherapy takes place at radiotherapy centres outside the UK.

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