Expectations From Radiation Therapy: The Before, During and After

Receiving radiation therapy is an important part of treating cancer in people living with the disease. Radiation therapy sometimes lessens the pain, diminishes the symptoms, extends one’s life or enables one to enjoy a cancer-free life. These therapies are used to treat all types of cancers including benign cancers, no matter what the stage. However, the sooner the better, is always the best option.

When one is recommended radiation, there are a number of things involved. The patient must research the procedures, perform a risk analysis, and question the side effects of the treatments and also the cost of radiation oncology. If you’re new to the term and treatment, here is a checklist of all the things one is expected to do or take note of while getting the treatment.

Before the Treatment

   Meet with your radiation oncologist
The first step involves meeting the oncologist and his/her team so that you can easily share your worries and concerns about the treatment. The oncologist, after reviewing your medical history, will recommend some additional tests before the treatment begins and talk about the potential risks involved.
   Sign a consent form
If you decide to go forward with the treatment, the oncologist will ask you to sign a consent form. Signing the document means:

  1.      You have agreed for the treatment
  2.      You give the caregiver the permission to deliver the treatment
  3.      You understand of all the risks involved
  4.      You know that the treatment doesn’t guarantee the intended results 
    Simulating and planning
Before the actual treatment begins, the patient will have a simulation session. The oncologist will use imaging scans to locate the tumour site. To do so, the patient might have to go through a series of scans and tests, including:

  1.      An X-Ray 
  2.      MRI
  3.      CT scan
After the simulation and location of the tumour, the team of oncologists will then determine how to proceed with the treatment. A plan will be devised.

During the Treatment

During the treatment, the patient will go through two different radiation therapies – external-beam and internal radiation therapy.
1.      In external-beam radiation therapy, the patient will receive radiation via a machine externally. The session will last no longer than 15 minutes and isn’t painful at all. These sessions will be conducted 5 times/week; giving the body a day’s rest to heal and repair the damage. The treatment targets the core tumour.
2.    During internal radiation therapy, the patient will receive both permanent and temporary placement of radioactive sources in the areas where the tumour is. The session will continue for about a few days for which the patient might even have to stay in the hospital for a brief amount of time. This procedure is painful and therefore anaesthesia will be provided throughout the treatment and a slight discomfort may be felt by the patient once the radioactive sources have been placed.

After the Treatment

Once the radiation therapy ends, the patient will have to revisit for a follow-up appointment to ensure all looks good. The appointment will be made with the radiation oncologist who will:

  1.      Monitor your recovery
  2.      Check for the side effects.
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