The Radiation Oncology Treatment Experience

What can I expect?

Dr. Kapadia providing radiation oncology treatment

During your first visit to our department you will see a Radiation Oncologist (physician), who will obtain a complete history and perform a physical examination. A second appointment may be needed for treatment planning (simulation). This involves taking some regular X-rays in order to accurately plan the area to be treated. It may not be until the third appointment, therefore, that you will receive your first treatment. In a few cases, however, patients may be treated during their first or second visit.

The treatment itself is painless. You will be required to lie completely still during treatment; however, this should not be uncomfortable, since the treatment rarely takes more than a few minutes. You will be alone in the room while you are receiving the radiation, but the technologist can see you on at TV screen and can hear you through an intercom.

When are treatments usually given?

Treatments are usually given each day of the week, Monday - Friday. In most cases, you will be treated at the same time every day. Occasionally, scheduling conflicts arise and your appointment time may have to be changed or delayed.

The Radiation Oncologist will meet with you weekly while you are on treatment. This will be done immediately after your radiation treatment. The nurse is available daily for any concerns you may have. During the course of Radiation Therapy, it is important that you eat a well-balanced diet and plan for adequate rest. In many cases, your level of daily activity does not have to be restricted. However, you should ask your physician or nurse about any restrictions that might apply to you.

No two people are exactly alike

It is important to remember that no two centers or treatment plans are exactly alike either. The experience of other patients may not apply to you. Your doctor and nurse know you as an individual. They can provide you with the best answers to your questions or concerns.

What is a portal film?

During radiation therapy treatments, the therapist will be taking verification x-rays or portal films once a week. These films are necessary to check treatment alignment. The films simply verify that the markings that have been placed on you or on your immobilization device, used during your treatment have not shifted from their original placement. It is critical that your treatment positions are reproduced on a daily basis in order to have the best results. The films do not give us information about tumor response during radiation therapy.

If there are any problems

Please notify your doctor or nurse of any change in your condition, especially if you are experiencing any discomfort. If you are unable to make a scheduled appointment because of an emergency, call the Radiation Oncology Department at (603) 650-6600. In order to reach the Radiation Oncologist at nights or on weekends, call (603) 650-5000 and ask the page operator to contact the Radiation Oncologist on Call.

What is radiation therapy?

Radiation therapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer, used in more than half of all cancer cases. In radiation therapy, we use high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells in your body. The radiation is delivered by a special machine called a linear accelerator, pictured at right, or by radioactive substances that are implanted or injected.

Norris Cotton Cancer Center's Radiation Oncology team uses the most advanced computer planning and treatment delivery systems to precisely deliver the radiation. Your safety is of paramount importance to us.

What is a radiation oncologist?

The radiation oncologist is a physician who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer and some benign diseases. During your consultation, the radiation oncologist discusses treatment options and advises on the best treatment for you. The radiation oncologist works closely with other cancer specialists and healthcare professionals involved in your care and meets with you on a regular basis to check on the status of your treatment.

Who else is on my treatment team?

A team of medical professionals, in addition to your radiation oncologist, cares for you during your therapy. A radiation nurse helps coordinate your care, answers questions about your treatment and helps manage side effects. Radiation therapists position you for daily treatments and ensure the accuracy of the radiation delivery. Behind the scenes, other professionals ensure that the treatment machine consistently delivers the correct dose of radiation required for your treatment.

The Registered Nurse or LPN will give you specific instructions related to your care during radiation therapy. She will meet with you frequently to discuss any problems, questions, or concerns you may have regarding your treatment

The Therapist will actually be giving you your daily treatment. The therapist, who has been specially trained in a certified school of radiologic technology, works closely with your physician and nurse. The technologist will deal with any requests you may have related to your appointments for treatment.

The Social Worker is available upon request to provide assistance with social or psychological concerns related to diagnosis and treatment. Those concerns or problems may pertain to transportation, lodging, finances, and the emotional issues surrounding this experience.

Each patient is treated as an individual and receives the focused attention of a team of physicians, oncology nurses, and other professionals who are experts in serving the broad needs of patients with cancer.