What to Expect During Your Radiation Treatment

The process of radiation therapy is customized for each patient, depending on the form of radiation therapy planned for the patient by their physicians. There are five basic steps of radiation therapy which include initial consul­tation, simulation & treatment planning, treatment delivery Weekly Review and post treatment follow-up.

Radiation Treatment is a closely knit Team work. The team includes:

Radiation Oncologist

He/she will be in charge of the entire therapy and plays the chief role in working out the patient’s treatment plan.

Radiation Oncology Nurse

He/she assists the radiation oncologist throughout the therapy, monitors the patient’s health during treatment, gives valuable suggestions regarding how to control probable side effects and also offers support to you and your family.

Medical Radiation Physicist and Dosimetrist

He/she has a thorough knowledge of the radiation equipment and often helps the oncologist with complex treatment plans.

Radiation Therapist/ Technologist

It is his/her primary responsibility is to maintain the treatment machines and administer the scheduled treatments.

Other medical and health care professionals: Other professionals include general physicians, nutritionists, dentists, counsellors, physical therapists, and social workers.

 As soon as you enter the department—

1. Consultation With your Doctor in the OPD

The doctor will review your medical reports, do a clinical examination, and request for tests. You will be explained about the details of the radiation treatment, its potential risks and benefits. This is the time to ask any questions or share concerns that you may have

You may need to come for more than one visits before you actually begin your radiation treatment

Giving permission for radiation therapy. If you choose to receive radiation therapy, your radiation team will request you to sign an “informed consent” form. Signing the document means:

2. Simulating and Planning Treatment

The first day of the radiation therapy session is a simulation. You will be taken up for making an immobilising thermoplastic mask. This is a mesh mask that is moulded to the body part to be treated and secured to the table. These masks help you stay in the same position throughout treatment. A planning scan will be done with or without contrast . This scan will be used to to identify the tumor location and plan your treatment.

Depending on the area being treated, a small mark may be made on your skin. This will help your team to set you up daily on the radiation couch.

It is important for your body to be in the same position for each treatment. Your radiation oncology team will take cares about your comfort during the treatment.

Talk with the team to find a comfortable position that you can be in every time you come in for radiation therapy. Tell them if you experience anxiety lying still in an immobilization device. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help you relax.

After the simulation at your first session, your radiation therapy team will review your information and design a treatment plan. Computer software helps the team develop the plan. This planning may take 1 or 2 days before the actual radiation treatment begins.

3. On the Radiation Treatment Machine

It is very important to finish all sessions of radiation therapy and try not to miss or delay treatments

The radiation therapy technologist (RTT) will ask you to change into a gown before treatment..

During the actual treatment sessions you will stay in the treatment room between 10-30 minutes. You will actually be receiving radiation for 1-2 minutes  only.

You will be asked to lie on a hard, moveable couch. The RTT will use the marks on your skin to exactly position the machine and table.

You will not feel anything during the treatment. Radiation is painless. You will not see, hear, or smell radiation.

The RTT will leave the room. You will be alone in the room, but there is a closed circuit TV and an intercom in the room. The RTT can see and hear you at all times. If you think you need to move, tell the therapist at once. The machine can be turned off.

The radiation machine is quite large. The machine can move around you and it will make noises. The RTT can control the movement of the machine from outside the room. The therapist will be checking the machine at all times. A physicist checks the accuracy of the machine often.

4. Weekly Reviews

The radiotherapy goes on for 5 to 6 weeks generally. Some  cancers may need less than 5 weeks or more than 7 weeks. The radiation conventionally are delivered 5 days per week, Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sundays are rest days, where you will not need to visit the hospital.

During your treatment, your radiation oncologist will check you and your blood reports for any reactions that you may develop or any complications needing treatment. Typically, this will happen at least once a week. If needed, they may adjust your treatment plan.

5. Post Treatment Follow up

Upon completion of your treatment, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled to monitor the recovery. Some diagnostic tests may be requested. As time goes by, the frequency of visits to the Department of Radiation Oncology will gradually decrease, but physicians are always available to discuss with patients and answer any questions and concerns they may have.

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