radiation treatment planning: how it works

There many different types of cancer, all with many different stages depending on location and patient. When it comes down to it, no cancer is the same, which means no treatment should be the same. Each patient should receive an individualized, unique treatment plan that caters to your needs and your body’s capabilities.

Creating A Radiation Treatment Plan

You’ll need a team, both of qualified doctors and a supportive team at home. In the treatment center, you should get to know your radiation team: the radiation oncologist, radiation oncology nurse, radiation physicist (helps design treatment plans), dosimetrist (calculates the dosage), radiation therapist (operates the machines and actually offers the treatment).

Your treatment process should start with an initial consultation followed by an informed consent process. Then, your radiation oncologist would often start with imaging to determine where you stand and what the best options are. They can evaluate the tumor, size, location, and much more. They’ll then have to stimulate you and get your body ready for radiation.

Your radiation oncologist then may suggest radiation or surgery. Radiation therapy can be used before surgery to shrink the tumor and make it more manageable or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancerous cells. Radiation may also be used to help with the side effects of cancer and manage it for as long as possible.

When it comes to external-beam therapy, which uses a large machine to beam the radiation into your body (similar to an x-ray), the first step is immobilizing your body/head to keep you still for the imaging process. Then, your radiation oncologist will mark you to determine where the radiation should be aimed. These markings are usually permanent - tiny tattoos under the skin.

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment

The side effects of radiation depend on a lot of things, like dosage and the location on your body. For example, side effects differ slightly when treating prostate cancer to lung cancer.

Patients may experience irritated skin, similar to a sunburn; fatigue; and hair loss (though this may be temporary or permanent). Some long-term side effects are possible, so talk to your doctor about follow ups, the risks specific to that area of your body, and the risks associated with each of the cancer stages.

Written by: Joanna Hynes

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