Radiation Treatment and You

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.

Side Effects

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.