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Preparing for Radiation Therapy Treatment

If your specialist recommends radiation therapy, here are the steps you’ll go through:

1. Visit to your radiation oncologist at The Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center
The radiation oncologist may ask for diagnostic procedures to be undertaken, either in the radiation therapy department or at a hospital or imaging center. These can include X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) scans. To prepare for your appointment, the Leever Cancer Center will ask your other physicians to provide copies of any biopsies, blood tests or other records as appropriate. After a consultation with the radiation oncologist, a treatment regimen will be prescribed.

2. Imaging
CT or PET/CT scanning is required to determine the exact size, shape and position of the area to be treated within the body, known as the treatment site. These images are then used to plan the patient’s treatment.

3. Treatment planning
Once your images have been taken, your radiation oncologist will develop a treatment plan created especially for you. Medical Dosimetrists use sophisticated treatment planning software that calculates the position, dose and frequency of the treatment. Before treatment commences the treatment will be simulated to ensure the correct treatment will be delivered later.

4. Treatment
Treatment is given on an outpatient basis. It is imperative that the prescription and treatment plan is adhered to as any missed treatment may affect its success. You will usually receive the same treatment each day for a course of treatment, which can last up to six weeks. You will meet with your radiation oncologist at least once per week to monitor your treatment for any side effects or weight loss, as well as to answer any questions you may have. 

To receive the radiation therapy, you will lie on a treatment table under the machine, and be asked to remain still during the actual treatment. The treatment is completely painless. Radiation cannot be seen or felt while it is being given.

5. Verification
During treatment a process of verification takes place. Images are taken of the treatment site, which are then used to verify both the patient position and the accuracy of the treatment beam.

6. Follow-up
When the treatment is completed, you will have a follow-up appointment with your radiation oncologist in approximately one month. After that you will be asked to visit the radiation oncologist on a yearly basis. These visits are held to assist you with managing any post treatment side effects and to monitor your progress.

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Because of the high doses used in radiation therapy, some patients can experience side effects, including:

  • Skin changes including dryness, itching, peeling or blistering
  • Fatigue

Most side effects occur gradually, usually beginning to appear by the second or third week of treatment and sometimes continuing for weeks or months after your treatment has concluded. Talk to your radiation therapy team at the Leever Cancer Center about your chances of having side effects, and let them know if you have any problems.