When you undergo external beam radiation therapy treatment, each session is painless, like getting an X-ray. When the radiation beam is off, there is no radiation in your body and should be no safety concerns for you or your family.
One of the benefits of external beam radiation therapy is that it is noninvasive and is usually scheduled five days a week. The number of radiation treatments you will need depends on the size, location and type of cancer you have, your general health and other medical treatments you may be receiving.
Each treatment may last only a few minutes, but your appointment time for getting in position and receiving treatment may be 15-30 minutes each day. While you are receiving radiation, the therapists will be monitoring you continuously. The machine may make some noises that sound like clicking or whirring, but that may simply be the equipment or a periodic film taken to make sure that your treatment remains accurate. The machine can be stopped at any time if you are feeling ill or uncomfortable.
If an immobilization device was made during simulation, it will be used during every treatment to make sure that you are in the exact same position every day. As you go through treatment, your doctor will monitor your daily treatments and make adjustments if necessary. Sometimes blood tests, X-ray examinations and other tests may be helpful to see how your body is responding to treatment. Usually each radiation treatment will be the same time each day unless you need to reschedule treatment on a given day.
Rarely do patients notice any actually side effects when the radiation beam is on, but treatment may lead to side effects. Side effects are different depending upon what many factors, some of which are on this website based upon where radiation is given. However, speak with your doctor to understand more about what you should expect for side effects of your treatment.
Sometimes a course of treatment is interrupted for a day or more. This may happen if you develop side effects that require a break in treatment. These missed treatments may be made up by adding treatments at the end. However, if you're not feeling well enough to come in for treatment, please call us rather than just cancel so we can determine how best to help you recover more quickly.
During radiation therapy, your doctor and nurse will see you regularly to follow your progress, evaluate whether you are having any side effects, recommend treatments for those side effects (such as medication or diet changes) and address any concerns you may have. As treatment progresses, your doctor may make changes in the schedule or treatment depending on your response or reaction to the therapy.
Although weekly visits are schedule to ensure that we are monitoring your progress through treatment, please do not hesitate to let your treatment team know that you want to see the doctor or nurse on any day if you have questions, concerns or new symptoms.