Planning the treatment

Treatment needs to be carefully planned to ensure that enough radiation reaches the cancer, while as little as possible reaches healthy tissues and organs. The planning steps below may occur over a few appointments.

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Initial appointment and examination

This may take up to two hours. Your radiation oncologist will assess whether radiation therapy is the right treatment for you. This will involve talking to you, doing a physical examination, and looking at all your tests and scans.

The benefits and side effects of radiation therapy and what to expect during planning and treatment will be explained. You might also meet the radiation oncology nurse and a radiation therapist who can give you more information.

The radiation oncologist may arrange further x-rays, scans or other tests to find out more about the cancer.

You may want to take someone with you to keep you company, ask questions and make notes.

Masks and casts

In most cases, you will need some type of device to ensure you are in the same position for each session and to help keep you still during treatment. This is known as an immobilisation device or cast and it will be custom-made to fit you. Depending on the area being treated, the device could be a mask, head rest, breast board, or a knee or foot cushion.

For radiation therapy to the head or neck, you may need to wear a plastic mask. This can feel strange and confining, but you will still be able to hear, speak and breathe. Tell the radiation therapists if you feel anxious or claustrophobic before or during treatment. They can suggest breathing or relaxation exercises, or arrange for you to have a mild sedative.

Skin markings

To ensure you are positioned in the same way for each treatment session, a few very small permanent ink spots (tattoos) may be marked on your skin. These tattoos are the size of a small freckle and can’t be easily seen.

Sometimes temporary ink marks are made on the skin. Ask the radiation therapist if you can wash these off or if you need to keep them until the full course of treatment is finished. The ink can be redrawn during the course of treatment, but it will gradually fade.

If you have to wear a mask or cast, the markings may be made on this rather than on your skin.

For image-guided radiation therapy, you may have a small surgical procedure to insert markers (usually gold grains) into the cancer. These internal markers can then be seen on scans during the treatment.

Planning CT scan

You will need to have a planning CT scan even if you have already had a CT scan to diagnose the cancer. This step is known as CT planning or simulation.

For this scan, you will be placed in the same position on the table that you will be in for treatment. If you have a mask or cast, you will use it during the scan. The images from the CT scanner will build up a three-dimensional picture of your body. This will show the exact location that needs to receive the radiation.

The radiation therapists will send the images from the scans to a computer. This allows the radiation oncologist to outline exactly where they need to treat. The oncologist will prescribe the appropriate dose of radiation therapy, which will help the medical physicist and therapists to precisely plan your treatment.

This information will apply in most cases, but you may find that things are done slightly differently where you have treatment. Watch this video to learn more about the radiation therapy process.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet of Understanding Radiation Therapy.

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Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in December 2017
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