THE STATEN ISLAND RADIATION ONCOLOGY EXPERIENCE
What you should know about your therapy.
Staten Island Radiation Oncology wants you to be reassured and comfortable about your experience when you come to us for treatment.
Knowing what to expect before, during and after your therapy will help prepare you for the treatment process. We feel that by having a better understanding of the technology and how it works will help calm any anxiety you might have.
THE TREATMENT PROCESS
- Meeting Your Radiation Oncologist
If your treatment plan involves radiation therapy, you will first meet with a radiation oncologist who will discuss the role radiation has in your treatment and answer any questions you might have.
To be most effective, radiation therapy must be aimed precisely at the same target every time treatment is given. The process of measuring your body and marking the skin to help direct the beams of radiation safely and accurately to their intended locations is called “simulation.” During simulation, your radiation oncologist and radiation therapist will place you on a simulation machine in the exact position that will be used during the actual treatment. Depending on what area of the body is going to be treated, simulation may include an immobilization device. This device ensures that you remain in the same position every time you receive your treatment.
- Treatment Planning
Once the simulation is finished, the radiation oncologist and other members of the treatment team review the information obtained during simulation along with previous medical tests to develop a treatment plan. After reviewing all of this information, the doctor will write a prescription that outlines exactly how much radiation is to be given and where. Once the treatment planning is complete, treatment will begin. The complexity of the treatment plan dictates how soon after simulation treatment will begin. Not all cancers are treated with the same amount of radiation; your doctor will tell you how long the treatment will last.
- First Day
After the simulation, but before the first dose of radiation, treatment verification films (also called beam films or port films) will be completed in the Radiation Oncology Unit. These films verify that the area being treated is in fact the exact area the doctor planned. These films need to be approved by the doctor before the first dose of radiation is given.
- Daily Treatments
Every day, the radiation therapists will assure correct positioning, including the use of the immobilization device, if that is a part of treatment. Once correct placement is assured, the therapists will go to the control area to closely monitor you on a television screen. There is a microphone in the treatment room so you can always talk with the therapists. The machine can be stopped at any time if you are feeling sick or uncomfortable. Each treatment is painless and is just like getting an X-ray. The radiation therapist may move the treatment machine and treatment table to target the radiation beam to the exact area of the tumor. The machine might make noises during treatment that sound like clicking, knocking or whirring, which is normal. You will be on the treatment table for 10-15 minutes; most of this time is spent setting you up.Treatments are usually scheduled five days a week, Monday through Friday, and continue for one to 10 weeks depending on the type of cancer being treated.
- Weekly Status Checks
During radiation therapy, your radiation oncologist will see you regularly to follow your progress. Be sure to share any questions or concerns that you may have during these visits or anytime during treatment. He will evaluate whether you are having any side effects and recommend treatments for those side effects, such as medication. As treatment progresses, your doctor may make changes in the schedule or treatment plan depending on your response or reaction to the therapy.Your radiation therapy team may also meet on a regular basis with other healthcare professionals to review your case. This will ensure that treatment is proceeding as planned. During these sessions, all the members of the team discuss your progress as well as any concerns.
- Weekly Port/Beam Films
During the course of treatment, it is necessary to make sure the radiation beams are going exactly where they are designed to go. Once a week, the therapists will take port or beam films for the radiation oncologist to approve. These are the same type of films that were taken on the first day. In order to continue radiation, your radiation oncologist must approve these films. You may be on the table for a few more minutes than usual on the day of port/beam films. These films do not show the tumor’s response to radiation.
After treatment is completed, your radiation oncologist will work closely with the rest of your medical team to make sure your recovery is proceeding normally.