After chemotherapy and surgery, radiation treatment is the most common treatment for cancer. If you are scheduled to undergo radiation therapy for the first time, here are a few things you can expect during the before, during and after the procedure.
Members in radiotherapy team
Here are the different kinds of physicians who are involved -
• A radiation oncologist- This is the doctor, who specializes in providing radiation therapy to cancer patients.
• Radiation oncology nurse- This nurse will care for you during the radiotherapy procedure.
• Medical radiation physicist- This doctor has in-depth knowledge about the equipment involved with the radiotherapy session. Thus, he/she plans the procedure.
• Dosimetrist- Radiations are harmful to the human body. To treat cancer, doctors allow minimal amounts of radiation to pass through your body. The dosimetrist calculates this dose and takes measures to mitigate the procedure’s side effects.
In some cases, this team will work alongside other doctors to deliver the best results from your radiotherapy session. For instance, dentists, physical therapist and nutritionists may weigh-in on your condition, if the need arises.
What to expect before treatment?
Before the actual radiotherapy sessions start, you will need to undergo three crucial steps. These include-
1. Talking with the oncologist- Before your radiation therapy can begin, you will need to meet and have a talk with an oncologist. He/she will better guide you on how to proceed with the treatment. The oncologist will also explain to you the risks and benefits of the procedure.
2. Signing consent forms- Once you know the risks and benefits of radiotherapy and you decide to pursue the treatment, you will need to sign a consent form. This form will authorize the clinic to start the treatment.
3. Planning the treatment- After signing the consent form, doctors will perform a number of tests to determine the exact location and size of the cancerous cells.
What to expect during the treatment?
Doctors have two options when it comes to radiotherapy procedures. Here is a look at what these methods are-
• External beam radiation therapy- In this procedure, the machine outside the body delivers radiation rays at the place where your tumour is located. However, a small amount of radiation may also damage the healthy cells surrounding the cancer tumour. This procedure is quick and simple. Also, it is painless.
• Internal radiation therapy- In this process, a machine with a radioactive source is surgically placed inside your body. The machine may be inserted temporarily or permanently. While this process rules out the need for multiple sessions of the treatment, the number of side effects is more.
What to expect after the treatment?
Once you complete the course, you will need to follow-up with your oncologist. These visits are necessary because
• Your oncologist needs to monitor your overall health and recovery
• Your oncologist will screen you for side effects from the radiation therapy. Some of these side effects do not show up immediately and may become apparent later on.
You don’t need to be nervous about radiation therapy. You should trust your doctor and rely on him/her. Oncologists are highly trained and know what is best for you if you have been diagnosed with cancer.