What to Expect During Radiation Therapy

After a physical exam & review of your medical history the doctor plans your treatment.

In a process called the CT treatment Planner or Simulation you will be asked to lie very still on an exam table while the radiation therapist uses a special x-ray or CT scanner machine to define your treatment port or field. This process takes from 30 to 45 minutes.

Depending on the type of treatment you will be receiving body molds or other devices that keep you from moving (immobilization devices) may be made at this time & they will be used each time you have treatment if needed to be sure that you are positioned correctly.

Once the simulation is done, your doctor will meet with the physicist & the dosimetrist.

Based on the results of your physical exam, lab tests, x-rays and other treatments you may have had & the location & kind of cancer you have, the doctor will decide how much radiation is needed, what kind of machine to use to deliver it & how many treatments you should have.

Once your treatments have begun the radiation therapist will mark the treatment port on your skin with tattoos & lines of colored permanent ink. This is the exact place on your body where the radiation will be aimed. It is important that the radiation be targeted to the same area each time. After your treatments are started your doctor & other members of your health care team will follow your progress by checking your response to treatment & how you are feeling at least once per week. Your plan may be revised by the doctor as necessary.

For most types of cancer radiation therapy is given 5 days per week for 4 to 7 weeks. For palliative care the course of treatment is shorter, usually 2 to 3 weeks. It is very important that you have all of your scheduled treatments to get the most benefit from your therapy. Missing or delaying treatments can lessen the effectiveness of the therapy.

During visits you may be asked to change into a hospital gown. You will be asked to lie on a table & the therapists will make sure you are in the correct position. Once your regular radiation therapy sessions begin you will be in the treatment room approximately 10 to 20 minutes but you will only be getting radiation for 1 to 5 minutes of that time. The treatments are painless, just like having an x-ray taken. You do need to remain still during treatment. You don’t have to hold your breath. The therapist will leave the room before your treatment begins but you will be watched from a television screen near the control panel just outside the room. The therapist can speak with you via intercom so if you feel ill or uncomfortable during the treatment tell your therapist because the machine can be stopped at any time.

Everything will be done to make your treatment time as comfortable & pleasant as possible.

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