Your First Visit
Your first appointment in radiation oncology will consist of a consultation with a Radiation Oncologist. This appointment, normally lasting between 1 and 2 hours, will consist of a complete physical examination and review of your medical history. Based on this initial visit, the physician will develop a personalized patient care plan.
The next step in planning your radiation treatment is simulation, which takes about 1 hour. Simulation consists of creating custom devices for your daily treatments and obtaining CT images of your tumor area in the treatment position. You may be asked to consume oral contrast or drink water prior to the simulation, which will enhance CT pictures. You may be asked to have CT images taken in the radiology department of the nearby hospital or diagnostic center depending on your individual situation. Rest assured, everything possible will be done to maintain your comfort while optimizing positioning in preparation for treatment.
You may receive skin marks or tattoos during the simulation process. These marks and/or tattoos will help the Radiation Therapist reproduce the treatment area for your daily treatments. Your therapist will explain how to take care of these marks.
Your Radiation Oncologist may request you receive a PET scan or MRI prior to beginning treatment. These additional tests may be necessary to provide the physician will the most accurate depiction of your cancer and surrounding anatomy.
You may receive special instructions during the consultation and simulation process related to diet, skin care, bathing and oral hygiene, or other activity restrictions. It is imperative that you are following all instructions as closely as possible for the best possible outcome. Please feel free to ask as many questions as you would like.
Your Treatment Plan
The Radiation Oncologist will write a prescription for the amount of radiation dose he or she would like delivered to the tumor area. A Medical Dosimetrist uses the CT images along with sophisticated treatment planning computer programs to prepare a detailed treatment plan. The treatment plan specifies exactly how the technology can best deliver the radiation dose while protecting normal structures. This treatment plan is then transferred to the radiation therapist for delivery by the treatment machine.
What To Expect
The actual treatment is painless and lasts just a few minutes per day. You will be asked to lie in the same treatment position every day using those custom devices created during simulation. Radiation Therapists will help you with your position as well as deliver the actual treatment from a linear accelerator. It is very important to relax and lie as still as possible and let your therapists do all the work. The therapists will use imaging techniques to confirm the exact tumor position before treatment begins every day. Your daily appointments should last about 15 minutes.
All of the equipment and documentation is carefully monitored and continuously reviewed through our Comprehensive Quality Management Programs by all members of your treatment team. Central Care Cancer Center believes in providing quality treatment, provided by highly educated and certified personnel delivered in a safe environment.
The total radiation therapy dose cannot be delivered all at one time because of the effects to normal surrounding tissues. Small daily doses are delivered over a period of several weeks, Monday through Friday, to deliver a larger cumulative dose lethal to cancer cells while keeping you as healthy as possible. The total number of treatments can vary greatly depending on the location of your cancer, the type of cancer, the reason for your treatment, your overall health, and any other treatments you may be receiving.
Contrary to what you may have heard, radiation side effects are minimal. You are not radioactive and cannot spread radiation after having a treatment on a linear accelerator. Your physician and nurses will explain exactly what to expect from your specific treatment.
The most common side effects from radiation treatment are fatigue and skin changes, and many patients do not experience any side effects at all. Most side effects do not occur until the third week of treatment and can be effectively managed by changes in diet, behavior, or medications. You will meet with the physician and nurses at least once a week during treatment. It is important to discuss any of your concerns because the earlier we are aware of potential side effects, the better they will be managed. This time is allocated to taking care of you, so please ask any questions you may have during this visit.
Follow Up Care
Following the completion of your course of treatment, the Radiation Oncologist will request to see you back for follow up care. Your schedule for follow up may vary based on the needs specific to your situation. Please follow any instructions carefully and remember, we are here for you. You may call, write, or email us directly for help with your treatment, side effects, billing questions, or any other concerns.