What to Expect – Radiation Therapy
Cancer treatment can be unnerving and uncomfortable, particularly before you know exactly what to expect. At DVU’s Cancer Treatment Center, it is our goal to make your cancer care experience as easy and comfortable as possible for you and your loved ones. Our staff is here to answer questions, provide assurance, maximize your comfort and expedite your treatment. If we can do anything to improve the treatment process for you, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Before beginning radiation therapy, you’ll attend a comprehensive consultation with our radiation oncologist. During this consultation, the radiation oncologist will review your medical history, conduct a physical exam, and review any radiologic studies performed as part of your cancer diagnosis. A detailed picture of the radiation treatment will then be described to you and your loved ones, including recommended number of treatments and possible side effects.
Gold or carbon markers will be placed in the prostate by your urologist (similar to your biopsy) to allow daily image guidance for radiation. The markers are about the size of a grain of rice and allow your radiation oncologist to precisely track the location of your prostate gland prior to daily radiation treatment. These markers are usually placed about one week prior to your planning session for radiation.
Your preparation for radiation therapy will start with a simulation. During this session, you will be fitted for a customized immobilization device that will be used to stabilize your position for daily treatments. Small removable stickers called BBs are placed on the skin to ensure complete accuracy when defining the desired treatment area. This area will then be marked with tiny permanent tattoo points on the skin, indicating exactly where the radiation will be delivered. CT images are then taken of the tumor site to identify the exact boundaries of the treatment area.
Once simulation is completed, a medical dosimetrist will work closely with your radiation oncologist and physicist to devise a personalized radiation plan that will effectively treat your cancer with ionizing radiation as prescribed by your oncologist. The dosimetry planning process and the associated review by the center’s physicist typically takes 7-10 days to complete.
During your first treatment, your radiation therapist will take a verification film, or X-ray, of your position during a process called a verification simulation. This image will be measured against subsequent films to assure that your position is correct in each radiation session. Images will be taken daily during the course of your treatment to provide your care team with ongoing guidance.
On treatment days, wear soft, comfortable clothing and avoid tight waistbands and belts. Remove band-aids, jewelry, and avoid using powders or lotions on or around your treatment area.
Radiation treatments are administered Monday through Friday, typically during an eight week period. If a treatment day is missed, that treatment will be made up at the end so the prescribed number of treatments is met. During the course of treatment, you will meet with your radiation oncologist at least once a week to discuss your progress. If a medical concern should arise after business hours or weekends, our radiation oncologist is on-call and available 24/7 by calling the Cancer Treatment Center’s main phone number.
On your last day of treatment, a follow-up appointment with your oncologist will be scheduled. Post-treatment instructions will also be provided, including:
- Medication usage
- Medical conditions
- Follow-up radiologic studies
A letter will also be sent to your primary care and referring physicians regarding your follow-up care.