Radiation Therapy FAQs
Answers To Your Questions About Radiation Therapy
We’d like to help you understand your radiation therapy treatment plan at the Beverly Hills Cancer Center, and we hope that this will help you find answers to your questions about your treatments.
How Do I Know If I Need Radiation Treatments?
Patients being considered for radiation therapy treatments will first require a consultation with a radiation oncologist. A radiation oncology physician has special training in using radiation to treat cancer.
During your consultation, your radiation oncologist will discuss your medical history and perform a physical examination. All of your reports (surgical, pathology) and your imaging studies (MRI, CT scans, PET/CT, mammograms and x-rays) will be reviewed.
Your radiation oncologist will then determine if you qualify for radiation treatments. If you do, he or she will prescribe the type and amount of treatment that best suits your particular needs. You will then be scheduled for a radiation planning session (simulation).
What Is A Radiation Planning Session (simulation) Like?
During a radiation planning session, special measurements and scans are taken to help prepare a custom radiation treatment plan that is specific for your body.
During this session you will be placed on a CT scanner table, and important measurements will be taken. Special custom molded devices are made to help maintain your body in the same position every day. Colored, permanent ink is often used to mark your skin to assist in aligning the radiation machine with your body and the treatment target area. CT images are taken through the body part that will be receiving radiation treatments.
The treatment preparation session might take from thirty minutes to an hour. Over the next 1-2 days our team of physicians and physicists will create a custom plan for you. When your unique plan is complete, we will contact you and arrange a series of appointments for your radiation treatments to start.
How Are The Treatments Given?
In the treatment room, the radiation therapist sets you up on the treatment table and uses the marks on your skin (tattoos) to locate the treatment area. The same special devices used during the planning session are used to help with positioning of your body.
The radiation therapist will leave the treatment room and remotely control a digital imaging system, rotating it around you to take digital images of the targeted area. These images are then used to make final, fine-tune adjustments prior to starting the radiation treatments.
The machine is controlled from outside the room. However, you can be seen on a television screen and the therapist can talk with you through an intercom. During the treatments you will not see or hear the radiation and you usually do not feel anything.
Receiving external radiation treatment is painless, just like having an X-ray taken. However, if you become uncomfortable the machine can be stopped at any time.
How Long Is A Course Of Treatment?
Radiation therapy usually is given daily, Monday through Friday, five days a week. The number of treatments will be determined by your radiation oncologist and may range from 3-45 depending on your unique circumstances.
The total dose of radiation and the number of treatments a patient needs depend on the size and location of the cancer, the type of tumor, the patient's general health and other factors. For each radiation therapy session, the patient is in the treatment room for about 15 to 30 minutes.
What Are The Effects Of Radiation Treatments?
Effects of radiation therapy are limited to the area being treated. For example, radiation treatments to the body such as the lung, breast or abdomen will not cause hair loss. However, radiation treatment of the head will likely cause some hair loss, which may take several months to re-grow.
External radiation therapy does not cause a patient's body to become radioactive and patients do not need to avoid being with other people for fear of exposing them to radiation. Hugging, kissing, or having sexual relations will not pose a risk of radiation exposure.
Most side effects that occur during radiation therapy, although sometimes unpleasant, are not serious and can be controlled with medication or diet. They usually go away within a few weeks after treatment ends. Many people continue to work or maintain their normal regular lifestyle and daily activities.
With newer technology and radiation treatment techniques such as IMRT, IGRT and stereotactic radiation therapy, some patients have minimal or no side effects at all.
Prior to the start of radiation treatments, your radiation oncologist will review with you in detail the treatment course and potential side effects as they pertain to you and your body.
From The Doctors Desk...
At Beverly Hills Cancer Center, we offer a vast array of treatment options that are non-invasive and do not require surgery. This study published at Science Direct discusses the many unwanted and unknown side effects that can occur with surgery for prostate cancer.
Many people are often not aware that there are better, non-invasive, alternatives to treating prostate cancer, including targeted radiation therapy. These non-surgical options, such as radiation therapy, may not only have fewer side effects but can also be more effective at fighting the cancer.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
Your health is important, and we welcome the opportunity to help you heal.
To schedule an appointment, please call Beverly Hills Cancer Center in Beverly Hills, California at (877) 320-5131 or use our interactive Online Appointment Request Form.