Your cancer treatment may include radiation therapy, the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Depending on the extent of your cancer, radiation can be used alone, with surgery, or with chemotherapy (treatment with drugs to kill cancer cells).
Many members of your care team are involved in planning and delivering your radiation treatment. During this process, you will talk with a number of medical professionals. All of these people work closely together to design the best treatment possible for your type of cancer. They are happy to answer any questions you have.
Your first appointment
Your first appointment in our Radiation Oncology department is for planning your treatment. The appointment usually lasts 30 to 60 minutes. You’ll meet many of the people on your treatment team, and be able to ask them questions. During this first appointment, called a "simulation," the following will happen:
- Radiation therapists take CT scans that the doctor uses to plan the delivery of radiation.
- A mask is made for you, and you also receive a small, inconspicuous but permanent tattoo on your lower neck. The mask and the tattoo assure that the radiation therapists position you correctly each time you receive treatment.
It may be that a second appointment is necessary for additional planning, an MRI, or a PET scan.
After your first appointment (or "simulation")
After the simulation, you:
- See your radiation oncologist and nurse
- Find out what you need to do before treatment begins
- Learn how to manage any symptoms while you are receiving treatment
Your treatment schedule
It takes about 7-10 days to design your treatment schedule. Once this is complete, you will begin receiving treatment 5 days a week, Monday through Friday, for 5-7 weeks. During the treatment period, you meet with your radiation oncologist and nurse every week.