If you go through external beam radiation therapy for cancer treatment, you receive this treatment on a set schedule. For most people this schedule is daily treatment five days per week, Monday through Friday. You receive a series of radiation treatments, allowing your healthy cells to recover and making the radiation fight your disease more effectively. Your treatment goals, type of cancer, radiation dose and schedule determine how long your treatments last.
A course of treatment is the span of time from your first radiation treatment to your last radiation treatment appointment.
Your radiation takes place through one of the following methods:
When you have a planning meeting with your doctor for radiation therapy, your visit will last about one to two hours. You go through a physical exam, discuss your medical history and possibly undergo imaging tests. You learn about external beam radiation therapy, your possible benefits and side effects and how to care for yourself after treatment. Your external beam radiation therapy is scheduled, starting with a simulation treatment planning session.
In the simulation, your radiation oncology doctor and a radiation therapist determine where on your body your treatment will take place. This is a treatment port or treatment field. You lie very still while you undergo scans or x-rays.
The radiation therapist either tattoos or draws small dots on your skin to mark where treatment will take place throughout your course of treatment. Each dot is the size of a freckle. You need to exercise care to ensure your dots do not fade during your treatment, because the treatment needs to occur in the same place each time. You may undergo a body mold process to make a plastic or plaster form that keeps you from moving during treatment.
For head or neck radiation you may go through a mask fitting. The mask has air holes and attaches to the table where you lie down during treatment. It keeps your head from moving during radiation treatments.
You should wear comfortable, soft clothes for treatment. They need to be easily removed for changing into a hospital gown. Do not wear tight clothing against your treatment area, jewelry, bandages or powder.
In the treatment room where you receive radiation, the temperature is kept very cool. You either lie down on a table or sit in a specialized chair. A mask, body mold or simply drawn dots direct your positioning for treatment.
During treatment, colored lights sometimes point at your skin markings. These are harmless. You must remain still to receive radiation at the exact same place each treatment, for one to five minutes per 30 minute or hour long session.
After external beam radiation treatment you are not radioactive. You can safely spend time with others, even pregnant women and infants.
Arizona Center for Cancer Care provides more than 35 offices and 55 physicians across Maricopa County for your cancer treatment. Whether you live in the Northeast Valley, Southeast Valley or West Valley, you benefit from the best physicians, leading treatment technologies and most up-to-date research in the country, right near your home.