Radiation Therapy Overview
Our goal at Centegra Sage Cancer Center is to provide you and your family with the information you need to make informed decisions about your care. We talk frequently with you to make sure we address all your questions and concerns throughout your treatment. We believe that when you and your family members become part of your healthcare team, you become more comfortable with your experience here.
The first visit to Centegra Sage Cancer Center’s Radiation Oncology Department is consultation day. Your diagnosis, overall health and psychosocial history will be reviewed at this time with a Radiation Oncology nurse to help identify other questions you may have for the doctor about your treatment plan of care for radiation therapy.
Your nurse will educate you about various radiation therapy options, introduce and explain the daily process of treatment as well as provide you with information about symptom management. The nurse will also help coordinate any additional tests, imaging studies or appointments with medical oncology, surgery or other specialty services.
After your nurse reviews your medical history, the Radiation Oncologist will address the goals of your radiation treatment with you. The discussion time with the Radiation Oncologist will include review of any surgery, pathology and diagnostic tests that have led to the current diagnosis. The oncologist may suggest other necessary tests that will complete your treatment plan. During this meeting, it is very important to ask questions so you have a clear understanding about your treatment plan.
If the decision is made that radiation therapy will be part of your treatment plan, an appointment is made for a CT Simulation Procedure. This is the first step for radiation treatment. Since many cancer tumors are deep in the body, their exact location in relation to the skin surface must be found and marked. This test involves taking images of the area and is similar to a diagnostic CT scan except the images are used by the Radiation Oncologist and Physics staff to determine a safe and efficient way to treat the cancer.
The CT scan does not deliver the radiation treatment. Instead, the scan obtains images in order to create a “virtual” patient. This allows the physician and planning team to precisely locate the treatment site and determine the optimal radiation dose, depth and length of your treatment. This information is then transferred to our highly sophisticated treatment planning computers that assist the Dosimetry and Physics staff along with the Radiation Oncologist as they create your unique treatment plan.
On the day of the CT Simulation Procedure, you can expect the following:
- A Radiation Therapist will escort you to the changing area to put on a hospital gown.
- Consent for treatment will be obtained at this time as well as a face photo taken to ensure patient identification for the radiation treatments to follow.
- Some patients may drink a liquid (such as barium) to allow for viewing of abdominal areas.
- You will lie on a scanner table while individualized patient positioning devices are created to help keep you still during your scan and subsequent treatments.
- Small markings are drawn on the your skin. Thin wires are placed on the markers to outline the treatment area, with the wires removed upon completion of the CT scan.
- You hold still and breathe normally during your scan, which typically takes about 5 to 10 minutes. The procedure is painless with minimal discomfort.
- A member of your planning team (such as a physician, dosimetrist or member of the physics staff) may be present during setup).
At the conclusion of the CT scan:
- Small, clear tape is placed on your skin to protect the marks. The tape is your reminder not to wash the marks off.
- The plan of care is sent to the planning staff. Planning the radiation dose is a complex, time-intensive process and may take up to seven to 10 days.
- The Radiation Therapist will discuss your start date and daily appointment schedule. Treatments are generally given Monday through Friday with the weekends off to allow for tissue recuperation time.
- The CT scan may be repeated again during the course of treatment if deemed necessary by the Radiation Oncologist.
When the plan is approved, plan verification is performed with the patient present. This visit will verify that the virtual plan that was created for you matches your body. X-ray pictures are taken of each field to ensure that all areas are correct. After all the films have been approved by the physician, the marked areas may be marked again with a pinpoint-sized permanent tattoo mark to ensure utmost accuracy. This will be the longest appointment, lasting about 30 to 45 minutes. Once the treatments are underway, there will be weekly visits with the Radiation Oncologist to discuss treatment progress and address any side effects experienced.
On a daily basis, the Radiation Therapists will deliver the radiation, and the Radiation Nurses are always available to help you manage side effects and address questions and concerns. Required lab work is typically done during the week. We also will introduce, as needed, our support staff as we determine your needs during the course of treatment.
Our goal at Centegra Sage Cancer Center is to provide you with very good care. If at any time you feel we are not meeting that goal, please do not hesitate to contact us at (815) 344.8000.