What to Expect
The first step is a consultation with a radiation oncologist who works closely with other physicians and medical professionals to coordinate the best possible care for every patient. This appointment generally takes an hour to an hour and a half.
When you arrive for your appointment, you will be met by one of our nurses who will show you to an exam room. She will ask you for a list of your current medications and take a brief medical history from you. You will next meet with your radiation oncologist who will ask additional questions, review your medical records, x-rays and test results and conduct a physical exam. Afterwards, the radiation oncologist will discuss your treatment options with you in detail and explain radiation treatment and its potential side effects. If additional testing is necessary, it will be arranged for you.
You are encouraged to bring a family member or other support person with you to your consultation appointment. You are encouraged to ask questions and voice concerns. It's a good idea to bring a list of questions you would like to ask at the time of your visit.
Before you leave your consultation, you will be scheduled for your treatment planning session or simulation, and will be given additional information and instructions to take home with you.
After your consultation, you will return for a treatment planning session or what we refer to as a simulation. This appointment takes about an hour to an hour and a half. If there are any instructions you will need to follow prior to coming to this appointment, they will be given to you at the time of your consultation.
During the simulation, the physician and radiation therapist will work together to plan your treatment. Many simulations are performed using our departmental CT-scan machine. The therapist will position you on the treatment table and create custom immobilization devices specific to your body and treatment site. This is done to help you maintain the exact same position throughout your daily treatments. It is essential that radiation treatments be precisely targeted; therefore, it is important that you remain as still as possible during treatment.
Marks may be drawn on your skin to outline the treatment area and small permanent tattoos, the size of a freckle, will be placed under your skin as reference points for the therapists to use during your daily treatments.
Additionally, x-rays, CT scans or other state-of-the-art scanning technologies will be taken to assist in planning your treatment. These scans are different from the diagnostic scans you may have had, because these will be done while you are aligned in your customized treatment position.
After your simulation is completed, the information is sent by special computers to the physicists and dosimetrists who will work with your physician to formulate a treatment plan specific to your needs. This complex planning usually takes one to two weeks. Before you leave, you will be given your treatment appointments and any special instructions.
First Day/Block Verification
Typically, the first treatment will take a little longer than your regular daily treatments, and will be used to take x-rays to verify that what was planned during simulation is reproduced exactly. You will meet the radiation therapists who will be treating you through the course of your daily treatments and a physician may come to the treatment room to check the set up and make minor adjustments if necessary. Usually only 20 to 30 minutes are needed on this day.
Once a week during your treatment course, you will be seen by your radiation oncologist. These "on treatment visits" usually fall on the same day each week, following your daily treatment. Please plan to be in the department longer on these days.
If, at any time during your treatment, you have a question or concern, please do not hesitate to ask. Our nurses are always available to you and they will help to determine if you need to see a physician.
During the course of your treatment, you may experience side effects from the radiation. You can learn more about possible associated side effects in Frequently Asked Questions. Please bring these to the attention of your nurse or physician so they can monitor them and provide you with specific instructions.
When treatment concludes, your radiation oncologist will continue to closely follow-up with you. Depending upon your physician and your treatment site, you will be seen two weeks to one month following treatment so that your physician can continue to monitor any side effects that you may have experienced.
For many months, you may continue to experience subtle changes as a result of your treatment. Therefore, it is very important for you to continue with your follow up appointments. Future follow-up visits will be scheduled every three to six months so that your physician can continue to monitor your health. Routine scans may be ordered prior to your appointment.
Additionally, your radiation oncologist will continue to work with your medical oncologist and/or primary care physician to ensure you maintain good health.
You should expect your first visit to last from two to four hours, as your visit may include a number of appointments with specialists on your health care team as well as laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures. Be prepared for unavoidable delays since test processing times vary and we need to provide your oncologist with the results while you wait. The length of your future visits depends on the recommended treatments and follow-up tests. We suggest you bring reading materials or other items to occupy your time. There are complimentary light refreshments available for those receiving care in treatment rooms.