What to Expect When Having Radiation Therapy

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 12/2018

It is normal to feel worried or overwhelmed when you learn that you will need radiation therapy. The information in this article can help you prepare for your first treatment.

Your radiation therapy team

A highly trained medical team will work together to provide you with the best possible care. This team may include the following health care professionals:

Radiation oncologist. This type of doctor specializes in giving radiation therapy to treat cancer. A radiation oncologist oversees radiation therapy treatments. He or she works closely with other team members to develop the treatment plan.

Radiation oncology nurse. This nurse specializes in caring for people receiving radiation therapy. A radiation oncology nurse plays many roles, including:

  • Answering questions about treatments
  • Monitoring your health during treatment
  • Helping you manage potential side effects

Medical radiation physicist. This professional has expertise in radiation equipment. He or she helps design treatment plans.

Dosimetrist. This professional helps the radiation oncologist calculate the right dose of radiation.

Radiation therapist or radiation therapy technologist. This professional operates the treatment machines and gives people their scheduled treatments.

Other health care professionals. Additional team members may help care for physical, emotional, and social needs during treatment. These professionals include:

  • Social workers
  • Nutritionists or dietitians
  • Physical therapists
  • Dentists

Learn more about the oncology team.

Before treatment

You can expect these steps before beginning treatment:

Meeting with your radiation oncologist. The doctor will review your medical records, perform a physical exam, and recommend tests. You will also learn about the potential risks and benefits of radiation therapy. This is your opportunity to ask questions.

Giving permission for radiation therapy. If you choose to receive radiation therapy, your health care team will ask you to sign an informed consent form. Signing the document means:

  • Your team gave you information about your treatment options.
  • You choose to have radiation therapy.
  • You give permission for caregivers to deliver the treatment.
  • You understand the treatment is not guaranteed to give the intended results.

Simulating and planning treatment. The first radiation therapy session is a simulation. This is a practice run without giving radiation therapy. Your team will use imaging scans to identify the tumor location. These may include:

Depending on the area being treated, you may receive a small mark on your skin. This will…

This article was sourced from Cancer.net.

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