Palliative radiation therapy

Palliative radiation therapy’s aim isn’t to cure cancer. We focus on giving you a better quality of life by controlling your symptoms.


What is palliative care?

Palliative care does not aim to cure a cancer, it is used to help shrink, slow down the growth, or control symptoms of an advanced stage tumour. It may also be used to control the symptoms of a cancer that has spread to give a patient a better quality of life.

How can palliative treatment help?

Palliative treatment can:

  • Treat symptoms of cancer in the lungs
  • Control ulcerating tumours and reduce bleeding
  • Treat symptoms of cancer in the brain
  • Treat a blood vessel blockage in the neck
  • Relieve pain in bone cancer
  • Relieve pressure on the spinal cord
  • Shrink a tumour to reduce pain

Is it right for me?

Palliative radiation therapy isn’t the answer for everyone. Other therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or biological therapy may be better. Your consultant is the best person to talk with about the best way forward.

How long will radiation therapy last?

Most people don’t need long courses of palliative radiation therapy – it might be anything between one and ten treatments. Your consultant can advise you. If you live a long way from your treatment centre, you may be offered a session on the same day as your first consultation.

What’s involved?

  • In most cases, before your treatment, you’ll be invited to a ‘planning’ session. That’s when we work with you to design the best course of treatment – taking into account your body shape, and the size and location of the cancer
  • During the planning session, you’ll be given an X-ray or a CT scan. We’ll mark your skin near the treatment area. This makes sure your treatment is accurately targeted
  • If the treatment involves your head or neck, then before your treatment you’ll be fitted with a head frame (or specially designed mask) to keep your head completely still during the procedure. This involves having a local anaesthetic

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