External beam radiation therapy
External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is a treatment offered to many people with head and neck cancer. In EBRT, the radiation comes from a machine outside the body.
Having radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is carefully planned to make sure enough radiation reaches the cancer, while as little as possible reaches healthy organs and tissues. During treatment sessions, you will lie on a table under a machine called a linear accelerator, which precisely delivers the radiation. The treatment is painless and is usually given Monday to Friday for 6–7 weeks. You usually won’t need to stay in hospital.
Wearing the mask
You will wear the plastic mask for 10–20 minutes at each session. The mask helps you keep still and ensures the radiation is targeted at the same area. You can see and breathe through the mask, but it may feel strange and confined at first. Tell the radiation therapists if the mask makes you feel uncomfortable – you can ask to talk to the social worker or psychologist and may be offered medicine to help you relax.
I had to wear a special mask to keep me totally still while the radiation treatment took place… I found this aspect of the treatment challenging. I had never seen a mask like this and I had never heard about their purpose.Read more of Julie’s story
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A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; Dr Sophie Beaumont, Head of Dental Oncology, Dental Practitioner, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Bena Brown, Speech Pathologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, and Senior Research Fellow, Menzies School of Health Research, QLD; Dr Teresa Brown, Assistant Director, Nutrition and Dietetics, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Lisa Castle-Burns, Head and Neck Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, The Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Ben Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, GenesisCare Rockhampton and Brisbane, QLD; Elaine Cook, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Dr Andrew Foreman, Specialist Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Tony Houey, Consumer; Dr Annette Lim, Medical Oncologist and Clinician Researcher – Head and Neck and Non-melanoma Skin Cancer, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The University of Melbourne, VIC; Paula Macleod, Head, Neck and Thyroid Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Dr Aoife McGarvey, Physiotherapist and Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner, Physio Living, Newcastle, NSW; Rick Pointon, Consumer; Teresa Simpson Senior Clinician, Psycho-Oncology Social Work Service, Cancer Therapy Centre, Liverpool Hospital, NSW.
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