Beginning Radiation Therapy
Before you begin treatment, a clinical consultation and evaluation are scheduled with your radiation oncologist. At that time the radiation oncologist will review your records, x-rays, scans and other test results, and perform a physical examination. He or she may also want additional tests performed and will discuss those tests with you.
Based on the results of the evaluation, if your radiation oncologist feels you will benefit from radiation therapy, a treatment plan will be presented to you during the consultation. Your treatment plan may include external radiation or internal radiation, also called brachytherapy or implants. In some cases, both types of radiation may be used. Our physicians work closely with various specialties in medical oncology and surgery. Cases are often reviewed at our weekly conferences.
Before You Begin
The amount of radiation needed also depends upon the location and pathology of the cancer. Your radiation oncologist will determine the number and frequency of treatments based on your individual needs. Your course of treatment may be as short as one day or as long as eight weeks.
To help protect normal tissues, radiation treatments are typically given in a series of small doses called fractions. This fractionation allows normal tissue to recover more readily. Most types of radiation cannot be given in a large single dose because of the likelihood that it would cause damage to normal surrounding tissue.
A typical series may consist of five treatments a week over a four- to eight-week period. Most treatment is delivered daily, Monday through Friday, with Saturday and Sunday off. With some diseases, two treatments per day are prescribed, with at least a six-hour interval between the two treatments. In special circumstances and when normal tissue can be protected, larger doses may be given two times per week.
Before beginning therapy, the radiation oncology nurse will discuss with you all the self-care measures necessary for your comfort and safety. You will also be introduced to the therapists who will administer your treatment.
We use a state-of-the-art GE Lightspeed CT scanner/simulator and advanced computer systems to focus on the area of treatment. This is the first step in ensuring a safe, effective treatment to all of our patients. Since this is the first process before the actual treatment, the therapist and physician will spend up to an hour ensuring proper set-up and that optimal scans are obtained.
Following the simulation, further treatment planning using a 3D treatment computer and calculations are made to determine the best method of delivering the exact dose to the affected area. Additionally, special shielding devices or blocks may be custom-made for use in your treatment. This may take up to a week to complete.