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Can I take a break during my Radiotherapy?

Here I explain whether you can take a break during radiotherapy treatment - a question quite often asked of me during consultations.

Radiotherapy works by slowly damaging tumour cells. The accumulated dose is designed to be enough to kill a tumour cell. A break in treatment can allow tumour cells to recover and the purpose and advantages of radiotherapy may be lost. You will be advised by your doctors not to interrupt your course of radiotherapy.

Sometimes if a day is missed, you can receive two doses (also known as fractions) in one day. There are usually short, two day safe weekend off breaks, factored into most courses of radiotherapy treatment.

The combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be particularly exhausting. Chemotherapy enhances the effects of radiotherapy. A common practice is to give a chemotherapy dose once a week and have radiotherapy every weekday.

Chemotherapy can be stopped if the toxicity (side effects) becomes difficult to tolerate. This is a useful way for doctors to determine if you have received the maximum tolerable dose and stopping the chemotherapy early is a safe option.