Planning Your Treatment
Because radiation affects all cells, your radiation oncologist must determine a treatment plan that will best treat the tumor, while protecting the healthy surrounding tissue. In order to do this, a simulation (treatment plan) will be performed. This is a complex procedure used to plan delivery of radiation to the tumor area with precision. Sometimes a special CT scan may be done before simulation. During simulation you will lie still on a table as the physician and radiation therapist take X-rays to determine exactly where and how to direct the high-energy beam.
This information is necessary for developing an individualized plan for you and to provide customized shielding. The Multileaf Collimetor and/or blocks are used to protect normal surrounding tissues adjacent to the tumor. When the exact area to be treated is identified, the skin over this region will be marked by small tattoos, that serve as guides. Your simulation will take about one hour. For very complicated treatment plans more than one session may be required. Following simulation, the use of a specially confi gured computer will determine the best method for treating your specifi c case. Prior to simulation, the radiation oncologist will ask you to sign a consent form.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
The radiation oncologist will consider information gained from the simulation, your medical history, previous tests, procedures and laboratory results to plan treatment. Radiation therapy is typicallygiven five days a week, for two to eight weeks. This type of schedule, which uses small amounts of radiation, helps protect normal surrounding tissue. The total dose of radiation and the number of treatments depends on the type of tumor.
Before treatment you may need to change into a robe. It is best to wear clothing that is easy to remove. The radiation therapist will position you, arrange equipment and administer treatment. Small tattoos will be used to locate the treatment area.
The first treatment is called a “dress rehearsal.” At this time, X-rays are taken, while you are on the treatment machine. These will be compared to the X-ray fi lms taken at simulation to ensure accurate positioning. The radiation therapist may put special shields (blocks) between the machine and your body to help protect normal tissues and organs. Plastic or plaster forms may be put in place to prevent movement. Receiving external radiation treatments is painless, just like having an X-ray. You will not see or feel the beam.
During treatment you will be alone in the room, but will be visible on a monitor to the therapist. The therapist can also speak to you through an intercom. You may hear noises from the treatment machine and the machine will move around your body during the process. If assistance is needed at any time, simply speak and the machine will stop immediately and help will be provided. It is necessary to lie absolutely still so radiation reaches only the area specifi ed and the same location is treated each time. The linear accelerator is typically on for only 30 to 60 seconds. However, time for positioning may take from 3 to 15 minutes, depending on the nature of the treatment.
Once a week you will be examined. This is called an “on treatment visit,” also known as “OTV”
Can I Miss A Treatment?
Unless a “treatment interruption” is prescribed, you should receive all of your radiation treatments in sequence. Occasionally, because of machine malfunction, a treatment may not be given. In this case, a make-up treatment will be added to the end of your scheduled plan. If you are unable to make a scheduled appointment please notify the department.
Will I Become Radioactive During My Treatment?
You will not become radioactive from the linear accelerator during or after treatment. You may interact with friends and family members as usual. There is no need to avoid people. Kissing, hugging or having sexual relations poses no risk of radiation exposure.
What About Side Effects?
While undergoing radiation, symptoms of cancer are often relieved and you should feel better. The reaction of radiation on your tissues may cause you to experience certain side effects. This depends on the part of the body being treated, amount of radiation and your body’s individual response. It is important to remember that most acute side effects can be controlled with diet, medication and other measures. Two common side effects are fatigue and skin reaction.
We encourage you to continue with your normal schedule such as work and social activities, but adequate rest is important. Possible side effects will be explained prior to treatment. Staff is available every day to evaluate side effects. Included in this booklet is a list of potential side effects for your specific area of treatment.