Radiotherapy

About

Our radiotherapy service is the main NHS provider of radiotherapy in north west London. We primarily treat patients with cancer, but we also use radiotherapy to treat patients with benign conditions where appropriate. We are one of only 52 radiotherapy centers in the UK and are part of the London Cancer Alliance. We’ve been at the forefront of implementing new treatments, including intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), cranial stereotactic radiotherapy and deep inspiration breath-hold (DIBH) radiotherapy. We also have the latest treatment technology available for all our patients, including two state-of-the-art Varian ‘Truebeam’ linear accelerators, which combine advanced 3D imaging with precise radiotherapy delivery, and a unique CT scanner that provides exceptional image quality with the lowest possible radiation exposure.

Treatments

Radiotherapy uses high-energy, targeted radiation to treat and try to cure cancers. This is called radical radiotherapy or curative radiotherapy, in which the full dose of radiation is delivered in a number of small doses called fractions, which are delivered through several treatment sessions. Almost half of all people with cancer will have radiotherapy at some point during their treatment pathway. However, radiotherapy does not cause cancerous tumours to shrink immediately and it can take some time for the beneficial effects to become apparent. These effects will depend on the type of cancer, other treatments that may be given alongside (such as chemotherapy or surgery) and how advanced the tumour is when treatment begins. For people with incurable cancers, radiotherapy is a very effective method of controlling symptoms – this is called palliative radiotherapy, and it is delivered in fewer treatment sessions.

The majority of treatment is given by the use of external beam radiotherapy, and most external beam radiotherapy is given using a linear accelerator machine (LINAC). Radiotherapy can also be used before surgery to shrink a tumour so it's easier to remove (known as neoadjuvant treatment), or after surgery to destroy small amounts of tumour that may be left (known as adjuvant treatment).

There are many different types of radiotherapy. Each type of cancer is different and each patient is unique, so your treatment team will consider all treatment options carefully and develop a specialised treatment plan for your condition. Our dedicated facilities provide the latest advanced technical radiotherapy expertise including:

  • Intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT): A form of radiotherapy that shapes beams of radiation around the tumour and varies the strength of each beam, lowering the dose of radiation that reaches healthy cells
  • Image guided radiotherapy (IGRT): Using x-rays and scans of the tumour site taken immediately before or after a radiotherapy treatment, a radiographer can carefully target treatment to a tumour and reduce the amount of radiation delivered to healthy tissues
  • Cranial stereotactic radiotherapy: This technique directs narrow beams of high-dose radiation at small tumours, ensuring a precise dose is delivered directly to each tumour
  • Gynaecological brachytherapy: This is a specialised technique that delivers radiotherapy directly to the inside of a woman’s womb
  • Deep inspiration breath-hold (DIBH) radiotherapy for left-sided breast cancer: This technique uses deep breathing to protect the heart during certain radiotherapy treatments
  • Total body irradiation (TBI): A form of radiotherapy treatment that is delivered to a patient’s whole body to treat certain types of cancers
  • Gated radiotherapy for lung cancers: A specialised technique that incorporates a patient’s respiratory motion to deliver targeted radiotherapy treatment to certain tumours
  • 4DCT scans: A specialised scan that captures detailed moving images

Additional information

Education and elective placements

Elective placements are provided for radiotherapy students. Please contact either Suzanne Harrow (suzanne.harrow@nhs.net) or Sindy Singh (sindy.singh1@nhs.net).

The radiotherapy department at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust takes radiotherapy students from University of Hertfordshire. For further information please contact Sindy Singh (sindy.singh1@nhs.net).

Further online resources