Radiation Therapy Treatments
The process of getting external beam radiation treatments is much like getting diagnostic X-rays or CT scans. The treatments are painless and usually taking 10-20 minutes (or even less.) Treatments are more commonly given to outpatients, but also are available for inpatients. A large percentage of patients are able to continue to work through some, if not all of their treatment course.
Treatments are usually scheduled five days a week, Monday through Friday, and can continue for up to 8 weeks in some circumstances. The number of radiation treatments you will need depends on the details of your diagnosis and the treatment course prescribed by your radiation oncologist and other treating physicians.
The radiation treatments will be performed by a team of radiation therapists each day. They are under the direct guidance of your radiation oncologist. It takes a few minutes to get you positioned for treatment. If a mold or other device was made during simulation, it will be used during every treatment to make sure that you are in the exact same position.
Once you are positioned correctly, the therapist will leave the room and go into the treatment control area – there you will be in contact through a closed-circuit TV and microphone system. You will be able to communicate with the therapist if you have any concerns. The machine can be stopped at any time if you are feeling uncomfortable or ill.
The machine will likely move several times during your treatment – it might make mechanical noises, but rest assured the radiation therapist is in complete control of the machine at all times.
Sometimes a course of treatment is interrupted for a day or more. The main reasons for treatment interruptions are machine downtime and patient illness. These missed treatments may be made up by adding treatments at the end.
Weekly Status Checks
During radiation therapy, your radiation oncologist or physician’s assistant will see you (at least) once a week to document your treatment course, and to discuss and address side effects or concerns that you may be having. Keep in mind that your doctor may make changes in the schedule or treatment plan depending on your response or reaction to the therapy.