Frequently asked questions
What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy involves using controlled, high-energy radiation, and is used to treat many types of cancers. This can be done in a few different ways, depending on the nature of your cancer. The most commonly used method is called external beam therapy (from a machine outside the body), which directs radiation at your tumor. Some types of cancer may require a technique of radiation therapy which is internal or direct, known as brachytherapy, either by itself or in combination with external radiation.
How does radiation therapy work?
Although the radiation affects both cancer and normal cells, it has a greater effect on the cancer cells. Treatment aimed at cure will give the highest possible dose of radiation to the cancer area (within safe limits) to attempt to kill all the cancer cells. Sometimes smaller doses are used, where the aim is to reduce the size of a tumor and/or relieve symptoms.
How is the treatment planned?
How is radiation therapy given?
Radiation therapy, when delivered externally, is given using a highly specialized machine called a linear accelerator. To receive the radiation therapy, you will lie on a table under the machine, and be asked to remain still during the actual treatment. Modern technology has enabled us to use these specialized treatment machines to deliver extremely precise and accurate treatments to the specific areas we need to target, while reducing the collateral radiation to the other organs that we need to protect.
Will the radiation therapy hurt?
If brachytherapy is used, there may be discomfort during the process of implanting the devices, but the actual radiation treatment portion of treatment is painless.
How long will the course of treatment last? How long is each session?
Your radiation oncologist will tell you this once the appropriate treatment for you has been decided. Every radiation treatment course is personal and individualized. A course of treatment can last anywhere from a single treatment, to five treatments a week for several weeks, and depends on a number of factors, such as the type and extent of the cancer, the part of your body being treated, and the goals of the treatment. Most treatments are carried out daily between Monday and Friday. Every treatment recommendation is personal and individualized, and always follows the most up-to-date guidelines based on the latest research.
What kind of side effects can I expect?
This will depend on many factors such as the area that is being treated, the dose of radiation, and if chemotherapy is used simultaneously. Everyone is different, and every situation is different, so your doctor will personally go over specific details on what types of effects you are most likely to experience.
What should I expect for my consultation visit?
You will meet with the physician and medical staff to begin discussing your treatment plan. We’ll go over the process of treatment and the potential outcomes that can be expected. We’ll review how your medical history, family history, and current state of health influences the planning of your treatment, and take time to answer any questions that you may have. We encourage you to ask any questions that you have, to ensure that you have all of the information you need.
How should I prepare for my first visit?
When you schedule your initial appointment with us, you may be asked to bring records, especially pathology reports, x-ray and scan reports, and often the original films or a CD of the films to be reviewed by our physician at your first visit. In most cases, we already have the necessary records sent from your other doctors, and we may not need to ask for your help. If you're not sure, it's always a good idea to bring in any information you think would be helpful.
What happens after?
Once you have completed your course of treatment, we will usually ask you to come back in approximately 4 weeks so that the physician can check on your progress and talk to you about any future follow ups or treatments that might be required.