Radiotherapy: what to expect
Treatment is different for everyone - how and when it happens, and the effect it can have.
We are here for you during your treatment. If at any time you have questions, if something is unfamiliar, or if you are worried, please talk to us and let us know.
Your doctor and the team involved in your care will create a care plan for you before your treatment starts. There are a number of appointments and steps involved in this.
Meeting with the radiation oncologist
You will first meet with a radiation oncologist for a review of your medical history, a physical examination, and to discuss your treatment options. We will go through what to expect and how your treatment will happen.
Radiation beams can be shaped, sized and directed specifically to the shape and location of your tumour, preventing the rays from hitting healthy tissue. If needed, a CT scan will be carried out so that we have images of the size and location of your internal organs to help us achieve this precision.
Treatment simulation is used to help us plan for accurate and precise treatment delivery. You lie in the simulation machine in the same position as you would in the treatment machine. From your position and how comfortable you feel, we can identify any supports or immobilisation devices needed to help you stay still during treatment. Any special shields or shapers needed to help with the direction of the beams will also be identified.
For radiation therapy to be effective, the radiation beams must be aimed precisely at the same area each and every time you have treatment. To ensure this happens, the radiation therapist will mark on your skin the target area with either temporary paint or small tattoos.
Your doctor and other members of the treatment team review all the information obtained during simulation, along with your previous medical reports and scans. Sophisticated treatment-planning computer software is used to design the best possible treatment plan for you. This maps the treatment beams precisely to the tumour, taking into account its shape, size, location, and importantly the surrounding healthy tissue to avoid, so that you get the most effective treatment appropriate to you.
Once all of this is complete, your radiation oncologist reviews all the information and writes a ‘prescription’ which outlines exactly how much radiation you will receive and where.
Your appointments and treatment take place daily. The radiotherapy sessions are relatively quick, but most people are here five days a week for a number of weeks.
What to bring
- A list of your current medications (to your first visit)
- Private health insurance information, if you are attending as a private patient
- A family member or friend to accompany you
Please note that children should not attend the centre.
Your radiation oncologist and nurse will see you regularly to follow your progress, check on any side effects you are experiencing, and address any concerns you may have. As treatment progresses, changes may be made depending on how you are doing and how you are responding to treatment. Our aim is to ensure that you are always getting the optimum treatment, specifically tailored to you.
There may be specific instructions for you to follow for your treatment - your team will take you through this as needed.
After treatment is completed, follow-up appointments will be scheduled so that your radiation oncologist can make sure your recovery is progressing as expected and to continue to monitor your health status.
Your doctor will explain the next steps to you and will schedule any necessary appointments. As time goes by, if you do not need further treatment, the number of times you need to visit your radiation oncologist will decrease.