The Radiation Therapy Treatment Process
The treatment process consists of 5 steps:
Radiation therapy is successfully used in the treatment of most cancers often in conjunction with surgery and/or chemotherapy. There are several steps in the radiation therapy treatment process. The first step is the consultation, which usually occurs at the request of the surgeon or medical oncologist. During the consultation, the radiation oncologist reviews all the medical information about your diagnosis of cancer. A physical examination then follows. Afterwards, you and your family meet with the radiation oncologist to discuss the rationale, benefits, and side effects of radiation therapy. If treatment is indicated, the radiation oncologist will explain the next step in the process: Simulation.
The treatment of cancer is unique to the specific type of cancer. The use of radiation therapy varies based on the individual situation. It is during the simulation process that the radiation oncologist “simulates” or decides upon how best to treat your cancer. A computerized tomography (CT) scanner facilitates the process by obtaining special x-ray pictures of the cancer in your body. The radiation oncologist then maps out the cancer as well as the organs that surround the cancer. Distinguishing between the cancer and the normal organs is very important because the goal of radiation therapy is to treat the cancer and minimize the radiation received by the adjacent organs. The simulation and mapping information is then used in the next step in the treatment process: Treatment Planning.
Once the simulation x-rays are obtained, the complex process of treatment planning begins. Unlike simulation, treatment planning is the behind-the-scenes work that does not require your presence. The treatment planning team consists of the radiation oncologist, medical physicist and dosimetrist. The team is specially trained to analyze various radiation therapy techniques in order to treat your cancer in the best way possible. Our centers use state-of the-art treatment planning computers to customize a unique plan for each individual patient. The medical physicist tests the plan for precision and accuracy. Once the radiation oncologist approves the final plan, you can be assured that the most optimal plan is ready to be used in the next step of the treatment process: Treatment.
Through the efforts of the simulation and treatment planning processes, you can be confident that your treatment plan is tailored to your specific needs. There are many different ways to deliver radiation therapy, and your radiation oncologist will discuss which is best for you. Your treatment may involve external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy or the combination of both. Often, radiation therapy is given concurrently with chemotherapy. Your radiation oncologist and nurses will review exactly what you can expect from treatment and the anticipated side effects. You and your family are encouraged to ask questions along the way.
An important part of the radiation therapy experience is the time following treatment. In conjunction with your other physicians, the radiation oncologist helps monitor your progress after radiation therapy. Importantly, the radiation oncologist is specifically trained to access and take care of any side effects you may experience.