We are committed to providing you the best care and support possible, so please feel free to ask or call us if you have any other questions or need additional information. Any one of our caring professionals would be happy to assist you.
1. What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy is the use of high energy radiation to destroy and prevent cancer cells from growing. Radiation is delivered in (2) primary means: External is the most common method which uses high energy x-ray or electron beam therapy delivered with a machine called a linear accelerator. The linear accelerator makes a humming sound when your treatment is being delivered but you will not feel anything at all during your treatment. Internal (or Brachytherapy) requires the use of radioactive implants or devices placed in or near the site of cancer in the body and often requires a hospital visit.
2. How does radiation therapy damage or destroy cancer cells?
Normally the cells in our body only reproduce when we need them; however, cancer cells grow and divide much more rapidly causing tumor masses. Receiving a high energy dose of radiation can damage these cancer cells preventing them from dividing and/or slowing down their growth. Often, high energy radiation will kill the cancer cells causing tumors to shrink and/or disappear completely. In the process of radiating the cancer cells, normal cells are also affected by the radiation, but usually will recover more quickly.
3. Will I have to come for treatment every day?
You will usually be scheduled to come for treatment Monday through Friday. We will try to give you an appointment time that will be convenient for you. We will discuss the total number of treatments with you before you begin your radiation therapy and try to keep your appointment time the same every day. Generally your treatment sessions are less than 30 minutes and we will make every effort to treat you on-time. You may be asked to come in at a different time one or two days if we have to do additional planning during your treatment course, but we will let you know that in advance.
4. What can I do to relax during my treatment?
You might want to bring a portable music player with you or a book to enjoy before you are called in for your treatment. We will allow you to listen to your music during treatment unless you are having treatment in the head and neck area where the device would interfere with your treatment. You can also look up at our beautiful skylight above the treatment couch and use it as a focal point enjoying the blue sky, wispy clouds and beautiful trees. At Caring River, we always provide coffee and soft drinks for you while you wait. You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you are able to receive your daily treatment after the first day or two of planning procedures are complete.
5. Can someone stay with me during my treatment?
You may have someone come with you but they will need to stay in the main waiting area while you have your treatment. Your radiation therapist will be with you during the setup but will need to step outside the room briefly to operate the linear accelerator. You will be monitored with closed circuit TV and an intercom system for the short time the treatment is being delivered.
6. What is IGRT?
IGRT (image-guided radiotherapy) is a new imaging technology that uses digital pictures to identify and pinpoint the exact area of treatment while you are in the treatment position just before each daily treatment. This technology is very important because most tumors are not stationary. They can shift and move slightly between treatments, and even during treatments due to normal breathing and other physiological things that we cannot control. With the accuracy of IGRT we are able to decrease the size of the treatment area by using only a 3-4 mm margin.
7. What is IMRT treatment and will I be able to have it?
IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) is a more advanced form of 3-dimensional treatment that allows us to protect more healthy tissue by alternating and shaping the radiation beam using a multi leaf collimation system. Ask your radiation oncologist if IMRT is right for you. Complimented with our IGRT technology we offer you the most precise treatment available anywhere today. At Caring River, we have the latest technology available for conventional 3D and IMRT planning and treatment.
8. Will I feel sick after my treatment?
Most patients do not experience feeling sick or nauseated at all during treatment, unless they are being treated in or around the stomach area which may cause some symptoms after several weeks of treatment. All side effects with radiation therapy are site-specific which means they only cause symptoms in the actual area of your treatment. For example, if you are being treated in the Head and Neck area, you may experience some tenderness in your mouth or throat while someone being treated in the pelvis area may notice thin or loose stools after a few weeks of treatment. Our doctor will prescribe medications to help minimize any symptoms you may experience during treatment and these symptoms will normally subside completely soon after you finish your treatment.
9. Will I be radioactive after my treatment?
External beam radiation will not make you radioactive at all. Your daily
treatment will be quick and painless. You will usually be in and out of the center in 30 minutes or less and back to your daily work or home routine. If your best treatment option is internal radiation or brachytherapy, our doctor will discuss all precautions with you during your initial consultation. You may need to use some radiation safety precautions depending on what type of internal radiation is being used for your treatment.
10. Can I still work and drive during my radiation therapy?
In most cases, all of our patients can maintain their normal routines during their treatment course. Generally your treatment session will only take 15-20 minutes. If you are taking any strong medications for pain or medications that make you feel dizzy or light headed you will need to ask a relative or friend to drive you to and from your treatment. If you are having treatment in the brain area or other area of the central nervous system, our doctor will talk to you about any restrictions you should follow before, during and after your treatment.
11. Who will plan my treatment and give me my daily treatments?
You will have a very specialized team of professionals taking care of you during your course of radiation therapy. Your initial consultation will be with our doctor, a Radiation Oncologist, who is a specialized physician in the field of radiation therapy. This means that he has completed medical school and a residency in therapeutic radiology and oncology. The doctor will consult with our Medical Physicist who is board certified by the American Board of Medical Physics. They will precisely develop your personal treatment plan after talking with your referring Physician(s), reviewing all of your medical history, pertinent lab results and diagnostic tests such as CT, P.E.T. and MRI. Your setup and daily treatment will be delivered by a registered Radiation Therapist. A registered Radiation Therapist is a medical professional specially trained at a certified school of radiation therapy technology and registered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technology.
You are also an important part of the team. We want you to enter into your course of treatment relaxed and confident. Your participation in your care will include: watching our informative Radiation Therapy video on your first visit to give you a complete overview of what to expect during the course of your treatment, arriving on time for your treatment, informing us immediately of any symptoms or side effects you may be experiencing, making every effort to maintain your weight by eating regular and healthy meals and asking us any questions or expressing any concerns you may have regarding your treatment.
12. Do I need to follow a special diet while I am having treatment?
We recommend you continue a healthy diet during your treatment and we want you to maintain your weight during your treatment. Maintaining a healthy diet and getting adequate rest will give you the energy you need during your treatment course and promote healing. Also be sure to drink 8-10 (8 oz.) glasses of water every day. Our patient care coordinator will monitor your weight every week and also provide you information on nutrition. We will also refer you for nutritional consultation should you request or require more specialized needs regarding your nutrition.
13. Will my insurance pay for my treatments?
Most insurance policies, including Medicare, will cover your radiation therapy treatment as is specified in your insurance plan. You will be responsible for any co-pays and/or deductibles outlined in your individual policy. Some private insurance companies may send payments to you directly depending on their in-network policies. If you receive a check from your insurance company for your treatment you will be asked to provide us a copy of your explanation of benefits and provide us the full amount of the payment. We will meet with you during your consultation or within the first few days to discuss your insurance policy and pertinent requirements with you. As is required with all medical procedures and services rendered, you are ultimately responsible for the full payment.
14. Will my insurance provider always send payments directly to you?
In most instances, your insurance provider will pay us directly for their portion of the medical bill as outlined in your policy. However, some private insurance providers may send a check directly to you depending on their in-network policies. If you receive a check from your insurance company for your treatment you will be asked to provide us a copy of your explanation of benefits ( EOB ) and provide us the full amount of the payment as noted on the EOB. Again, you are ultimately responsible for the full payment of all services rendered.