NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Radiotherapy and Me

Almost half of cancer patients undergo some form of radiotherapy during their treatment. The Christie, part of the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), delivers radiotherapy to around 8500 patients each year. However, we found that patients and researchers felt that it’s not talked about as much as other treatments, including the possible side effects.

‘Radiotherapy & Me’ was a creative project designed to share real-life experiences of radiotherapy, inspire conversations about radiotherapy as a safe and effective treatment, and raise awareness of research within Manchester BRC’s Advanced Radiotherapy theme.

Led by Vocal, the six-month project was a collaboration between cancer patients, researchers and health professionals, supported by creative practitioners from Manchester’s Contact Theatre.

Oldham, a town in Greater Manchester, was chosen as the site for the project to prioritise an area where there is traditionally low participation in translational research. The Royal Oldham Hospital also hosts The Christie at Oldham, which delivers a range of radiotherapy treatments closer to home, rather than patients having to travel to the main Christie hospital in South Manchester.

Patients and members of the public were invited to a series of workshops at Oldham Library. Together with researchers and creative practitioners, they were encouraged to reflect and capture their experience of the treatment through sessions in creative writing, spoken word, poetry and visual arts. This culminated in a showcase event at the library, where these exhibits were shared with members of the public through visual displays and audio recordings.

Vocal also created a series of video interviews with people who had experienced radiotherapy about their unique experiences of the treatment. The films and audio stories from are available online and have been shared with both regional and national health provider charities, to encourage more people to talk about radiotherapy and to promote involvement in research.  So far we’ve reached over 700 people.

Posters promoting these resources will be displayed in outpatients clinics at The Christie, as well as hospitals in Manchester, Macclesfield, Oldham and Salford, to support current patients, and their families and friends, to feel supported as they go through this treatment and experience.

Vocal continues to promote this work to wider patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) and cancer research networks.

The University of Manchester has also included the videos in training programmes within the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health (FBMH). Wider afield, they have also been promoted across the Clinical and Translational Radiotherapy Research Working Group (ctRAD) network of over 160 UK radiotherapy researchers. We have seen continued engagements through participation in other PPIE panels and events.