Radiation Therapy Appointments
Your first radiation therapy visit is called the consultation visit. It will take one to two hours. At this appointment, you will meet the radiation therapy doctor and talk with them about how radiation therapy can treat your cancer. They will review all your medical records and any recent X-rays or scans, such as a CT scan (CAT scan) or MRI. The doctor will examine you, and a staff member will measure your weight and blood pressure.
Your radiation oncology doctor will talk with you about your treatment options. You can discuss possible side effects of radiation therapy, and how they can be managed. If you and the radiation oncologist decide radiation therapy is the right choice, you will make some additional appointments. These will help you get ready for treatment and begin radiation therapy.
Your next visit is called the simulation visit. This helps us plan the best way to send radiation to the areas where there is disease or a tumor. A staff member called a radiation therapist will ask you to lie on your back or stomach on an examination table, and stay as still as possible. Next, the therapist will help move your body into the best position for having radiation treatment. You will need to stay in this position while your team plans the best way to give radiation. We may need to create a special cushion, mold or mask for you to use during treatment. These items will help you lie in the right position at each treatment.
At this visit, your radiation therapist may need to make some temporary marks on your skin. Usually, we also place a few small, permanent tattoo marks to show where the radiation should go. These tattoos are about the size of a freckle. The therapist may also take some X-rays at this visit.
Finally, we will ask you to sign a short consent form saying that your doctor has explained the risks of radiation treatment and that you understand them. At the end of this visit, you will make an appointment to start your radiation treatments.
Your daily treatments may be the only treatment you have for cancer, or you may also have chemotherapy. You may also have radiation therapy before or after surgery.
Most people have radiation therapy every day, five days a week. Most cancers need to be treated for five to eight weeks. You will not have treatments on Saturdays, Sundays and some holidays. Depending on your radiation plan, treatments will take from 15 seconds to 30 minutes each time. Your radiation oncology doctor can tell you about how many weeks you will need treatment.
Once a week, you will see your radiation oncologist to talk about your treatments and general health. These appointments are called on-treatment visits. At your last on-treatment visit, your radiation oncology doctor will talk with you about the plan for after treatment. Your doctor will tell you if you need any additional blood tests or X-rays, and when you should have them. The effects of radiation therapy continue after you finish your treatments. You may need X-rays or tests later to see how well the radiation therapy worked. You will probably see your radiation oncologist four to six weeks after your radiation therapy ends so the doctor can see how you are feeling after treatment.