This visit will determine whether radiation therapy is right for you, as well as determine the type of radiation and answer any questions you may have. This could last from 1 hour to several hours depending on your circumstances. If you have any X-Rays, lab studies, pathology reports, or other test results please bring them so the oncologist can review them. Once you are comfortable with the proposed treatment and are fully aware of the risks and side effects, you will be asked to sign a consent form.
Before you begin you will go through a process called a “simulation”. This will confirm that the machine will treat the exact location on your body. This will create a map of your body where the radiation is to be delivered; this is referred to as the treatment field. This entire process will take about an hour. This process can be uncomfortable since you are lying on a hard table for most of this time.
In some situations a special scanner called a CT scanner will be used along with the simulation. This machine is specially designed to work with the other equipment, not to be used in place of the other diagnostic scans.
After your simulation, it is necessary to mark your body to outline the treatment areas. They mark these areas using very small tattoos - which are about the size of a pinpoint or freckle. Generally 1 - 3 tattoos are made. The process of tattooing can cause a little discomfort but it is important to show exactly where the radiation should be delivered. These tattoos are permanent but are barely noticeable due to their small size. The use of these tattoos also makes it possible for you to shower daily without worrying about washing off these important marks.
To set up the machine for radiation treatments you will be placed on the treatment table in the same position as the simulation. Proper positioning usually takes about 20 minutes. Once you are in the proper position a set of X-rays films will be taken. Once films and positioning are confirmed a treatment will be delivered.
Treatments are usually given once a day (Monday- Friday) for a number of weeks. Each treatment takes between 5 and 10 minutes, however you will likely be in the department around 30 minutes each day.
In general a follow up will occur between 2 and 6 weeks after you have completed your treatment of radiation therapy.