Many patients who are diagnosed with cancer will require treatment with radiotherapy. This treatment is provided by a team of health professionals and led by a Consultant Radiation Oncologist.

Radiation oncology is the use of ionising radiation to treat cancer.  Radiotherapy (Radiation Therapy) uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells in the affected area by damaging their DNA.

The radiation used for cancer treatment may come from a machine outside the body, or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near tumour cells or injected into the bloodstream.

A patient may receive radiation therapy alone as a treatment or in combination with surgery or drug treatments. This will depend upon on the type of cancer being treated.

Radiation therapy can damage normal cells as well as cancer cells. Therefore, treatment must be carefully planned to minimize side effects.

Radiotherapy is used for a number of different medical purposes including:

  • to cure an illness, for example by destroying a tumour (abnormal tissue),
  • to control symptoms, such as relieving pain,
  • before surgery, to shrink a tumour so that it is easier to remove, and
  • after surgery, to destroy small amounts of tumour that may be left.

Radiotherapy is sometimes used in a process called total body irradiation (TBI). 

Public radiotherapy facilities are provided at Galway University Hospital, Cork University Hospital and in Dublin through the St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network (SLRON).  SLRON provides radiotherapy across three locations - in St. Luke’s Hospital and in St Luke’s Radiation Oncology Units on the grounds of St James’s and Beaumont Hospitals. These three centres operate as a clinical network, with a centralised referral process for all patients, and with standard clinical practice guidelines.

The HSE also has service level arrangements in place in Limerick and in Waterford where radiotherapy is provided with private sector partners.

Last updated: June 12th 2023