What is a mask for radiotherapy?

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For the majority of treatments to your head, brain or neck region it is necessary to wear an earpiece during every treatment. It is also sometimes referred to as the headshell, a mold or cast.

The radiotherapy mask is designed to ensure that your head is neck straight and in the correct place. This will help make your treatment as precise and efficient as is possible. The mask fits snugly but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. It’s possible to breathe normally while you wear it.

We provide more details about radiotherapy for neck and head cancers. We also have additional details about radiotherapy for brain tumors, including stereotactic radiotherapy to treat brain tumors.

The mask for radiotherapy is created, the mask is

Once the mask has been made the mask can be adjusted a bit. Therefore, there are a few items you might be asked to perform prior to your appointment to ensure that your mask is properly fitted:

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Dental work

Before the radiotherapy mask can be constructed, you might need visit a dentist get your mouth and teeth examined. If you have teeth that are in poor health, they could require removal or fixed. Dental work may alter the appearance of your mouth and the appearance of your face. It is therefore important that to get this done prior to the mask is created.

Mouth bites

Certain patients receive an oral bite to wear inside their mouths during radiotherapy. This keeps your jaw and mouth in place, ensuring that you can treat the correct region. It can also minimize adverse consequences. The radiotherapy team will inform you if you require an oral bite. If so have to, then you should wear the mask when it is being constructed.

Hair

It is not necessary to trim your hair before you make the mask. If you do have beard, it is recommended to cut it or shave it off. When you’re doing your treatment, make sure to not alter the look of the style of your hair or allow your facial hair to develop. This may affect the way the mask will fit. The shaver’s moisture can cause irritation to your skin when you undergo radiotherapy. Make use of an electric shaver when you must shaving.

How is a mask for radiotherapy constructed?

A technician or radiographer typically creates the masks in the department of radiotherapy. The process of creating the mask may differ according to the hospital however, it typically takes around 30 minutes. You might have to remove some of your clothing and dress in the hospital gown while it’s being created. If you wear a wig, or headscarf, be sure to remove these as well.

Masks are generally made of mesh plastic. The mesh is molded to conform to the contours of your neck and head. Sometimes, wet bandages are made to create molds, which are later used to create an opaque mask made of plastic (Perspex(r)) masque.

There are two kinds of masks for radiotherapy

Mesh mask made of plastic – this is made from a form of mesh made from plastic that turns soft when heated by warm liquid (thermoplastic).

Perspex(r) mask – This is transparent plastic known as Perspex(r).

The creation of a mesh plastic mask

Stage 1

You lay on a couch similar to one used to treat. You rest your head on the plastic headrest. The radiographer or technician tries to ensure that you are as comfortable as they can. They warm the mesh before placing it on your face so that it molds itself to make it fit your neck and head precisely.

It’s a little like the hot flannel. It’s not harmful and cools rapidly. The plastic mesh has a lot of holes, which allows you to breathe easily.

The photo below shows the plastic mesh being put on the face of a man. The second picture depicts how the plastic mesh is fitted to his face, as well as the sides and on top of his head.

A plastic mesh is put on the face

The plastic mesh is moulded to be affixed to the face

Stage 2

It is recommended to remain still for about 15 minutes as the mesh cools and it hardens.

Cooling and hardening with plastic mesh on the face

Stage 3

It is removed and ready to be put on.

The first image below depicts the face mask being removed off the face of a man. The second picture shows the mask as it is on the couch for treatment.

The mash of plastic mesh is removed from the surface

The mask is now complete and fitted with a plastic mesh on the couch for treatment

Making a Perspex(r) mask

A Perspex(r) Mask is created in two steps. The technician or radiographer creates an impression of the plaster mold of your neck and head. They then use the mould to create the transparent material (Perspex(r)) masque to use for the treatment.

For the making of the mold, they apply the cool gel or cream on your face, to protect your skin. They also provide you with a cap for swimming or some other cover to shield your hair and hairy from mould mix. Then, they put damp strips of the plaster of Paris bandages on top. They make holes in your mouth and nose, to allow you to breathe freely.

Plaster of Paris becomes warm when it gets set. It’s normal and will not harm skin However, it could make you feel uncomfortable. It takes approximately 5 minutes for the mould to form before the mould is removed.

They then create an Perspex(r) mask using the mold.

Masks for radiotherapy and treatments

After the mask has been made then your treatment will be scheduled. This could happen immediately after the mask has been made or you might have to make an additional appointment.

Treatment planning ensures that radiation therapy is targeted precisely to the cancer. You might have to strip off your clothing and wear an hospital gown. If you normally wear a wig, or head scarf, then you must take them off as well.

The team of radiotherapy helps you reach the same place that it was when the mask was created. The mask is placed gently on your face and secured to the couch for treatment, to ensure that your neck and head don’t move. The mask should fit snugly but not too tight. If it’s uncomfortable, inform the personnel so they can adjust the mask.

It is possible that you feel anxious in the face mask or you may feel uncomfortable. It is possible to bring some soothing music or a soothing program to play while you wait for your appointment. The majority of patients are comfortable with the assistance by the staff of radiotherapy. If you’re concerned or feel uncomfortable tell them about it to help them. Your doctor will be able to prescribe medications to take prior to your treatment to help calm down. However, it is not typically required.

When planning treatment the doctor or radiographer may draw small markings in the face mask with ink. It is also possible to have permanent marks made in your chest. This is done by making a small scratch into the skin using the help of a needle and ink similar to how tattoos are created. If you’re concerned about the possibility of permanent marks, inform your Radiographers inform them. They may be able to discuss other alternatives with you. These marks can make it easier to put you back to the same spot every time you go in to receive treatment.

The consultation for treatment planning usually lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. There is no requirement to wear the mask all of the duration of the appointment.

If you are receiving radiation therapy, it is done in exactly the same way on a couch , under the machine for radiotherapy. The mask is placed gently over your neck and head and secured on the sofa. The treatment can last between 10 and 30 minutes and isn’t uncomfortable. Also, the team can listen, see and speak to you , and they are standing at hand should you need assistance at any moment.

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