Fighting cancer is probably one of the most difficult struggles a person can go through. There’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, and it definitely can take a toll on anyone’s physical and mental state. At Rosetta Radiology, we believe that our radiation oncology patients benefit from knowing what radiation therapy treatment steps to expect and what their radiation therapy treatment plan will look like.
We believe that having this information upfront answers many questions and can relieve a lot of anxiety for patients, making them feel empowered and in control. If you or someone you know is about to begin radiation therapy treatment, here is everything you need to know as well as what to expect.
What Types Of Radiation Therapy Treatment Are There?
Mainly, there are 3 different kinds of radiation therapy treatments used to fight cancer: External-beam radiation therapy, internal radiation therapy, and systemic radiation therapy. Each kind targets cancer differently; the kind of treatment our patient receives may depend on the kind of cancer they have or what it’s condition is. At Rosetta Radiology, our radiation oncology team focuses on External-beam radiation therapy and utilizes an IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) machine to deliver the external-beam radiation.
How Does External-Beam Radiation Therapy Work?
External-beam radiation therapy is a high-energy therapy that uses X-rays and gamma rays to pass radioactive beams through a machine into the patients’ cancerous area, or “target tissue.” This method of external radiation is completely painless and provides the benefit of being extremely targeted, so as to not affect healthy nearby areas.
The IMRT machine, also known as the Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy machine, is a highly advanced and precise radiotherapy device that uses CT scans’ 3D technology to deliver radiation to the entire tumor. This precision is vital in diminishing the radiation that surrounding healthy tissue receives.
Once a patient has been diagnosed and given a tailored radiation therapy treatment plan, then the treatment begins. Using the IMRT machine allows doctors to plan a very precise treatment and the high-energy radiation of the machine lessens the number of radiation treatments a patient must receive.
While the exact amount and frequency of therapy sessions are very individualized, in general, a patient can expect to receive treatment as many as five times a week for six to seven weeks, or longer.
The Effects Of Radiation Therapy
Though radiation itself is painless, a radiation therapy treatment brings a lot of difficult side effects. Some of these side effects can present themselves during or right after the treatment itself, or a few days or months after the treatment has begun. Side effects may vary depending on the kind of cancer the patient has and where it is located.
Common side effects include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Hair loss
- Sensitive skin over the treatment area
- Low Blood Count
- Weight loss
Your Radiation Health Care Team
Any radiation therapy plan is tough to get through, but one of the things that makes it easier is having an understanding, professional, and caring team by your side. Here are just a few of the healthcare professionals you will have on your side.
- A Radiation Oncologist: This doctor specializes in radiation therapy and will prescribe the type and amount of radiation appropriate for you.
- A Radiation Physicist: This person tends to the radiation equipment to make sure it is working properly and is giving off the right amount of radiation.
- A Dosimetrist: Works alongside the oncologist and the physicist to calculate how much radiation will be delivered to the cancer, as well as to any healthy nearby tissue.
- A Radiation Therapy Technologist (RTT): This technologist works with the radiologist to deliver the prescribed dose of radiation.
- A Radiation Nurse: The nurse will be able to answer all of your questions and help you understand your treatment. They can also help in managing your symptoms and can get you in touch with your doctor.
Treating cancer and understanding your treatment plan can be very overwhelming. At Rosetta Radiology, we try to help you break down each step and we’re always ready to answer any of questions. To learn more about what to expect from your radiation therapy treatment, make an appointment, or contact us today!