Your radiation therapy treatment includes pre-treatment visits to evaluate your cancer and plan your treatment, treatment visits, and follow-up visits to monitor your progress after treatment. The Cooper cancer team provides education and support throughout the process.
Before you receive radiation therapy, your radiation therapy team will plan your treatment, which includes evaluating your cancer, and planning, simulating, and setting up your treatment. During your pre-treatment visit, your radiation oncologist will review your medical history and do a physical examination. He will also teach you about the role of radiation therapy in your treatment program and what you should expect during radiation therapy.
The next step is mapping the site where the radiation will be targeted-simulation. A computed tomography (CT) scan will be taken, which your radiation oncologist will use to determine the best way to deliver radiation therapy for your cancer. Your skin will be marked (visible only under ultraviolet light) to guide the delivery of the radiation. This advanced technology enables your doctor to deliver the appropriate radiation dose to the right location and also limits the radiation delivered to normal tissue, thereby reducing possible side effects.
Your set-up visit takes place using the equipment that will be used to deliver your treatment. Under your radiation oncologist’s supervision, your radiation therapist will take x-rays of the areas that will be treated to ensure that the treatment you’ll receive exactly matches your radiation therapy prescription.
During the set-up visit, your radiation therapist and your doctor will ensure that any shields used to protect healthy tissue or immobilization devices used to help you lie still during the treatment are positioned correctly. At the end of this visit, you will schedule your treatments.
Your radiation therapist will deliver your radiation treatments, which are usually daily and take about 15 minutes. The delivery of the radiation only takes a few minutes, but positioning you on the treatment table, which is crucial to ensure that the radiation targets the cancer, may take a little longer.
Your radiation oncologist will examine you at least once a week to evaluate your response to treatment. He will check your weight and may order blood tests. This weekly visit is a good time for you and your family to ask your doctor questions or share your concerns. You can also talk about these things with your nurse or radiation therapist.
Once you begin radiation therapy, it’s important to the success of your treatment that you keep your appointments.
After your treatments are finished, a follow up visit will be scheduled to monitor your progress with one of our staff radiation oncologists or the nurse practitioner. Your first follow-up visit will be one to six weeks after your last treatment.
You’ll have access to support services such as counseling (personal and nutritional), education, and physical therapy, and to social workers, throughout the process.
For an appointment with an MD Anderson Cooper radiation therapy expert, please call 855.MDA.COOPER (855.632.2667).