02 Dec What to expect from your first session of radiation therapy
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and scary. Pursuing treatment can be equally as daunting, since choices for your care may seem confusing or unclear. And if you’re seeking radiation therapy for your treatment plan, it’s important to know that you’re not alone.
At Alabama Cancer Care, we want to help you understand and have confidence in your treatment plan. In the following blog, we’ll outline a basic overview of what to expect from radiation treatment. For more specific questions on your treatment plan, please contact your ALCC doctor so that we can give you the particular information you need for your therapy.
What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy is a standard treatment option for cancer patients. More than half of all people with cancer receive radiation therapy as part of their cancer treatment. Radiation therapy uses targeted energy to destroy cancer cells, shrink tumors, and alleviate cancer-related symptoms.
Before your first radiation treatment
Before your radiation treatment, you’ll meet with your oncologist and oncology team. Your oncologist will review your medical records, perform a physical exam, and review past medical tests and X-rays. As you discuss your treatment options with your oncology team, you will have the chance to ask questions and learn about the risks and benefits of radiation therapy.
Then, your oncologist will explain their findings and make suggestions for your treatment plan. If you and your team decide that radiation is an appropriate treatment option, the staff will schedule a simulation needed to develop an accurate therapy plan. During the simulation, the team takes X-rays to get more information and help decide how the oncologist will administer the radiation. The oncologist may use a marker to make a small mark on your skin to help identify the tumor location.
Ultimately, meeting with your oncologist before treatment allows you to ask questions, talk through your treatment plan, and get more comfortable with your process and your oncology team.
During radiation treatment
Your radiation treatment experience will vary based on the delivery method of the radiation.
External beam radiation therapy
External beam radiation therapy is the most common radiation therapy. Radiation therapy using an external beam is a local treatment, meaning that the radiation treats a specific part of your body. Radiation is directed from a machine outside the body onto cancerous cells within the body.
The radiation therapy technologist may ask you to change into a gown before treatment, which makes it a good idea to wear loose, comfortable clothing.
During external beam radiation therapy, a large machine aims radiation at your cancer. The machine won’t touch you, but will move around you, sending radiation to your body from many directions. Depending on your cancer, you may sit or lie down on the treatment table, and your technologist will position you for optimal treatment. During treatment, you’ll remain still and breathe normally.
During the treatment sessions, you will usually be in the treatment room between 10 and 30 minutes. However, you will be receiving radiation for only a few minutes of that time. Each session is quick and painless. Most of these radiation treatments are given five times a week for several weeks.
There is a different process if you’re going through other radiation treatment options, such as internal radiation therapy or systemic radiation therapy. Depending on how you and your oncologist decide on how to administer your therapy will determine what a typical treatment experience will be like for you.
How you may feel after radiation treatment
Typically, your oncologist will meet with you once or twice a week for check-ins. During these meetings, your oncologist will evaluate how your body has been reacting to treatment. These visits would be the time to voice any concerns, symptoms, or questions that you may have.
Before you receive your first radiation treatment, you’ll want to talk with your oncologist about your chances of having side effects and how to best manage them. Many patients who receive radiation therapy have side effects such as skin changes and some fatigue. Other common side effects depend on the part of your body being treated.
Your Alabama Cancer Care Radiation Therapy Care Team
At Alabama Cancer Care, we offer compassionate cancer care from medical specialists who come together for your treatment plan. We hope you consider Alabama Cancer Care and allow our expert physicians to help you find your best road to recovery.