New radiotherapy late effects special interest group

The newly formed radiotherapy late effects special interest group (SiG) will provide a platform for therapeutic radiographers to discuss and develop services to support patients with ongoing consequences from their radiotherapy treatment.

Published: 19 March 2021 Role Development

The group was established in 2020 by Lisa Durrant and Emma Hallam, Macmillan Consultant Radiographers for radiotherapy late effects, in response to growing queries regarding their practice and services in Taunton and Nottingham.

Radiotherapy is an integral component of modern cancer care with 4 out of 10 people cured of cancer receiving radiotherapy treatment (Cullen et al. 2014). Half of those diagnosed with cancer will live for at least 10 years, however 1 in 4 will have enduring physical or psychosocial effects of their cancer or its treatment (Cancer Research UK 2020; Macmillan 2013).

Radiotherapy late effects arise as a consequence of irradiating normal tissues.  Toxicities can affect any system of the body and are usually permanent and progressive developing from at least three months to many decades after radiotherapy.  

Physical symptoms can include pain, fibrosis, cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal problems and second malignancies. These long term consequences and their psychological burden diminish quality of life leaving patients questioning ‘cured – but at what cost?’

There are few dedicated services for adult radiotherapy late effects and these retrospectively manage patients who have already developed symptoms. 

Therapeutic radiographers have insight and understanding in all aspects of the radiotherapy pathway including dosimetry, treatment delivery and acute side effects.  By predicting or preventing late effects, therapeutic radiographers can offer patients more prospective management rather than waiting for life changing symptoms to appear.

Radiographers with an interest in late effects are often working alone and there is limited discussion or formal guidance. This new SIG aims to provide support and to share clinical expertise and experience to benefit both patients and therapeutic radiographers.

For more information or to become a member of the group contact [email protected] or [email protected].