Getting a diagnosis of cancer is a traumatic and distressing event. People with the illness may be offered a range of treatment options. One of the options may include radiation therapy. Radiation therapy may be the primary course of treatment, or it may be offered as a follow-up treatment after surgery. We asked a radiation therapy oncologist in Denver CO to tell us about this treatment.
Patients will be assessed by a radiation oncologist. The oncologist will conduct a physical examination, and will carry out some tests. This is so that the oncologist can work out a treatment plan, which he or she will then discuss with you in detail. This meeting also gives you the chance to ask questions. You will be asked to sign consent forms.
Your first treatment session will be a simulation. The radiation therapy team use this session to find out where to target the beam of radiation. Scans or x-rays will be used. Once the tumor is located, a small tattoo mark is put on the patient to act as a precision target.
Since it is important that the radiation beams hit the exact spot during each treatment session, patients may have to be immobilized so that they cannot move during the treatment. If the radiation therapy team is treating the neck or head area, patients may have to wear a special mask to prevent head movements. Some patients find restraints and masks uncomfortable, but they are a vital part of the procedure. Patients can ask for medication to help them relax.
When the simulation is complete, the radiation therapy has all the information it needs. The team will use the accumulated data to design a treatment plan. Initially, most patients will attend treatment sessions as outpatients in hospitals. The radiation comes from a special machine that is maneuvered into place. The beam is aligned with the tiny tattoo.
There is another form of radiation therapy in which radioactive devices are placed temporarily or permanently in the body. This is called internal radiation therapy. Since the radioactive devices have to be implanted, this may require general anesthesia, which means a short stay in hospital. Patients with radioactive implants will need to be careful that their implants do not expose others to radiation.
If you have any concerns about radiation therapy, or if you would like to learn more about this form of treatment, we are here to help. Feel free to contact us today.