Step 1 – Consultation
Your first visit to radiation oncology is a consultation with your Radiation Oncologist and your care team. You will not receive a radiation treatment at this visit. Plan to be in the clinic for at least one hour or more. This is an important visit to learn about your medical history and treatment needs. For most patients the visit will include a physical examination, review of medical history, review of imaging, and review of current medication.
Informed Consent: If you choose to receive radiation therapy, your team will ask you to sign an informed consent form.
Step 2 – CT Simulation
CT simulation (or SIM) for radiation therapy follows your initial consultation in our Radiation Therapy Department. Treatment planning usually involves positioning your body, making marks on your skin and taking imaging scans. The CT images acquired during your scan will be used to plan your radiation treatment. The planning portion of your radiation therapy ensures that your treatments will target the area of disease. The SIM visit takes about one hour. Some patients will receive IV contrast.
- Tattoos: Most patients will require very small tattoos (size of a of freckle) as a guide to help the radiation therapist line up the radiation treatment fields the same way each time you receive treatment.
- Immobilization Treatment Devices: Immobilization devices will help establish and maintain the patient in a fixed, well defined position from treatment to treatment.
Step 3 – Technical Planning Process
After your SIM planning appointment a team consisting of Radiation Oncologists, radiation therapist, medical physicists and medical dosimetrists plan the appropriate radiotherapy for you. The team works closely with the radiation oncologist to develop the best treatment plan. This process can take up to week to complete.
- Set-up/New Start also known as the “Dry Run”: Just prior to starting radiation therapy, you will participate in a dry run. During this session, all aspects of your prescribed treatment – positioning and dosages – will be checked for accuracy. The dry run usually takes place in the room where you will receive your actual treatment.
Step 4 – Daily Treatments
The number of treatments prescribed will vary depending on your specific cancer type and its location. Treatments are given Monday thru Friday for the number of visits determined during planning. Typically your treatment is scheduled for the same time each day. A licensed radiation therapist will administer your treatment.
- On-Treatment Examination: Some patients will have repeat X-ray films daily or weekly to re-confirm proper positioning.
- On-Treatment Visit: Your radiation oncologist and nurses will assess and examine you once a week. If needed, the radiation oncologist may adjust your treatment plan.
- Follow-up Appointments: When your course of treatment is complete, your radiation oncologist will need to see you for follow-up visits.