WHAT TO EXPECT
WHAT TO EXPECT
Knowing what to expect before, during and after radiotherapy will help prepare you for the treatment process. Having a better understanding of the technology and how it works will help calm any concerns you may have. We are committed to providing excellent care to our patients in a positive and comfortable environment that promotes positivity and well-being.
On the day of your consultation you may arrive earlier than your appointment time to start the registration process. Here, our clerical staff will collect your health insurance card and all medical records. You will fill out forms with your individual patient information and your signature will be required for acknowledgement of our privacy practices; a photo will also be taken for security and identification purposes.
Our medical assistant will give you an initial physical examination before your consultation with the doctor and review your current case and medical history. If necessary, there may be another physical examination by the radiation oncologist.
You and your family will meet with our board certified radiation oncologist to discuss the role that radiation has in your treatment plan for your staged diagnosis. You and your family will have the opportunity to have any and all of your questions answered, including how to individually prepare for planning, how many treatments will be prescribed, as well as the risks, benefits, and side effects of treatment if you choose to proceed.
Our administrative staff will help to schedule your appointments, transportation, and get any insurance authorizations, if necessary.
To be most effective, radiation therapy is designed to target the same exact location during every treatment session. Simulation is the process of mapping your body and determining the exact location, size and shape of your tumor. In most cases, we permanently mark the skin with ink to ensure reproducibility of your set-up and to help direct the radiation beams safely and accurately to their intended site. Your consent/agreement with the radiation oncologist is needed to start the planning process; it will be witnessed.
During simulation, the radiation oncologist and radiation therapist will position you in a Computed Tomography (CT) Scanner in the exact position that will be used during the actual treatment. Depending on what area of the body is going to be treated, simulation may include an immobilization device to guarantee that you remain in the same position every time you receive your radiation treatment.
For more precise mapping of certain tumors, it may be beneficial to have other imaging scans in addition to your CT, such as molecular resonance imaging (MRI), angiography or positron emission tomography (PET). If any of these additions are requested by the radiation oncologist, our clerical staff will help you to schedule them.
Once all of the necessary images and information is gathered, the radiation oncologist will work alongside a board certified medical physicist to review the information and develop a treatment plan. The radiation oncologist will write a prescription that records exactly how much radiation is to be given and to what part of the body. Using exceptional software, the team optimizes the shape and angles of the radiation beams. Radiation therapy treatments work by damaging the DNA of the targeted cells. The affected cells then lose the ability to reproduce, which causes tumors to shrink.
Once complete, treatment can be scheduled to start. The type and complexity of the treatment plan determines how long it will be before treatment commences. Not all diagnoses are treated with the same amount of radiation; your doctor will keep you informed on how long your individual treatment course will last.
Every treatment plan is reviewed by a medical physicist, a radiation oncologist, and a licensed radiation therapist. A Quality Assurance (QA) test is done for each individual plan to guarantee the amount of dose being delivered is correct given the area involved.
Before the first dose of radiation is delivered, treatment verification images will be completed on the patient.
These images verify that the area being treated is in fact the exact area the doctor planned for. They will be approved by the doctor before the first dose of radiation is delivered.
These images will continue to be taken daily or weekly, depending on your individual plan, and approved by the radiation oncologist.
On a daily basis, the therapists will verify your correct positioning before delivering radiation. The radiation therapists operate outside of the treatment room but will closely monitor you on a television screen to guarantee no movement. There is a microphone in the treatment room so you can always talk with the therapists, if necessary; treatment can be stopped at any time if you are feeling sick or uncomfortable and resumed later. Each treatment is painless and is comparable to getting an x-ray.
The radiation therapist may move the treatment machine and/or treatment table to target the radiation beam to the exact area of the tumor. The machine might make noises during treatment that sound like clicking, knocking or whirring, which is normal. You will be on the treatment table for 10-15 minutes; most of this time is spent correcting and verifying your position.
Treatments are usually scheduled five days a week, Monday through Friday, and continue for one to 10 weeks depending on the type of cancer being treated.
During your treatment course, your radiation oncologist will see you weekly to follow your progress. Be sure to share any questions or concerns that you may have during these visits or at any time during treatment. He will evaluate whether you are having any side effects and recommend treatments for those side effects, such as medication.
As treatment progresses, your doctor may make changes in the schedule or treatment plan depending on your response or reaction to the therapy.
Most types of cancer need to receive the full course of radiation treatment before evaluating treatment response.
After treatment is completed, your radiation oncologist will recommend the necessary evaluations to track your treatment response. He will work closely with the rest of your medical team to make sure your recovery is proceeding normally.
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