How is the radiation administered?
Radiation therapy is administered either externally, by using a machine that generates a radiation beam, or internally, by placing radioactive material into body tissues or cavities.
Will I become radioactive after receiving treatment?
External radiation therapy does not cause your body to become radioactive, and it is perfectly safe for you to be around other people and engage in intimate contact during treatment.
Some temporary implants require patients to stay in the hospital while the radioactive material is in place. During this time, you may have visitors but the length of their visits may be limited. Children under 18 years of age and pregnant women are not allowed to visit. Once the radioactive material is removed, there will be no radioactivity remaining in your body and no further precautions are necessary.
Permanent implants such as prostate seed implants emit very low dose radiation beyond the body as they decay and become inactive. These very low levels of radiation are usually of no danger to family members, but occasionally special instructions may be given.
Does radiation therapy hurt?
No. Radiation Therapy treatments are painless while being delivered.
Is radiation therapy expensive?
Radiation therapy can be costly because it requires the use of very complex equipment and the services of numerous health care professionals. The exact cost of your radiation therapy will depend on the type and number of treatments you receive.
Will my health insurance pay for radiation therapy? How about Medicare?
Most insurance plans, including Medicare, cover the cost of radiation therapy. Before treatment, you should check with your insurer to discuss your policy and determine what costs, such as deductibles and co-payments, you will be expected to pay. If you have any other questions, please contact our financial counselor.
What kinds of side effects will I experience?
Any side effects you may experience depend on the amount and frequency of radiation you receive, and the area of the body that is treated. Many common side effects, such as fatigue, are not serious and will go away within a few weeks after treatment ends.
Before treatment begins, your radiation oncologist and nurse will discuss with you any likely side effects that may occur and what you can do to control or relieve them.
How will the radiation affect my skin?
For many treatments, there are no skin reactions. For others, the skin exposed to radiation may become red, itchy or tanned. In some circumstances, blisters may form. These skin reactions are temporary, can be treated, and usually disappear within a few weeks after treatment ends.
How long will each treatment take?
The treatment itself may only take a few minutes, but you will need to allow preparation time for your treatment set-up during each visit. In general, please allow least 45 minutes for your first appointment and approximately 20 to 30 minutes in the department for each visit thereafter.
How many treatments will I need?
Depending on your condition, the total treatment course may be as short as one day or as long as eight weeks. A typical series usually consists of five treatments a week over a two-to-eight week period. Most treatment is delivered daily, Monday through Friday, with weekends off.
What happens if I miss or skip a treatment?
To receive the maximum benefit, it is important that you receive all of your prescribed radiation treatments. Missed appointments can be made up, and you will receive the prescribed amount of radiation but over a longer period of time. However, it is important to note that treatment may be less effective if extended over a longer period.
What is a treatment session like? Do I need to make any special preparations?
Generally, no advance preparation is necessary. Before starting the actual treatment, you may need to change into a gown. The therapists then set up and position the equipment in the treatment room. During this time, you will be asked to lie on the treatment table beneath the radiation therapy unit while the therapists align your body in the proper position. Once you are positioned properly, it is important that you remain as still as possible and that you breathe normally.
The therapists will leave the room during the few minutes of your treatment, but they will observe you closely from outside the room on a closed circuit television monitor. If necessary, you may talk to the therapists via an intercom system in the room.
During treatment, you may hear sounds or see a red light. These merely indicate that the equipment is on. At the end of the treatment, the therapists will assist you off the treatment table and direct you to the dressing room.
Are there any physical restrictions following a treatment session?
You are encouraged to carry on your normal daily activities as much as possible. Many people continue to work full time without experiencing any problems. However, you should avoid overexertion and becoming overstressed.
Do I need a special diet during or after treatment?
You may need to modify your diet, depending on your specific treatment area and any side effects that you may experience. In general, you should eat a well balanced diet that is high in protein and calories to help you maintain your weight and obtain the nutrients necessary for normal tissue to recover. We will refer you to a dietician when appropriate.
Will taking extra vitamins help?
We advise our patients not to take any supplementary antioxidants, such as Vitamin A, C and E, selenium and beta carotene. Radiation is an oxidant, and we are concerned that taking extra antioxidants concurrently with the radiation may decrease the effectiveness of the treatments. One multivitamin tablet per day is permissible.