What to expect when you get referred for radiotherapy
Your primary physician is likely to have already explained the decision to seek an opinion about radiotherapy in your case. He/she will refer you to a Radiation Oncologist, who is an expert who specialises in the use of radiation therapy to treat cancers and some non-cancerous conditions.
At your appointment with the Radiation Oncologist, he/she will thoroughly evaluate your case by reviewing your case notes, scans done so far, surgical reports where applicable and clinically assessing you.
Following there may be a recommendation for Radiotherapy, whereupon you will be given detailed information about the rationale for the recommendation, treatment schedule and potential side effects. You will also get to meet with a specialist nurse at this stage.
The doctor with then arrange for insurance approval and pass on your details to the radiation therapy team for co-ordinating treatment related appointments.
Most patients who undergo Radiotherapy, require a CT scan called the Simulation CT scan. This is in addition to any other scans that you may have had previously.
Simulation CT scan is just a normal CT scan, but is acquired in a very precise way to be able to target the cancer during your treatments.
In some cases special masks or supports, will be custom made prior to this scan to ensure precision of future treatments. The Radiation therapist and Nurse will explain this to you and make this for you.
This is an outpatient procedure, after which you will be able to go home.
After you have had your Simulation CT scan, the team consisting of Radiation Oncologist and Medical Physicists work on this to accurately mark out the areas that are to be treated. They plan the radiation therapy using sophisticated and advanced software, in such a way so as to give the maximum dose to the cancer while sparing the normal structures.
There are several checks to ensure your treatment is individualised and personalised before you actually start your treatments.
This is the reason why there will be a few days between your Simulation CT scan and the start of your treatments.
Your treatment plan is personalised for you. Our team of Radiation Therapists is highly trained to operate the sophisticated machine to accurately and precisely target the Radiation treatment to the cancer.
During the delivery of the treatment, you will be alone in the room, but not to worry. Our team will be monitoring you while your treatment is being delivered.
Once your treatment is finished for the day, you are able to go home. Do not worry – radiation therapy does not make you radioactive and you can carry out normal activities after.
Your treatment will continue for a number of sessions.
As with all types of treatments, Radiation therapy can cause some side effects. These may be of varying severity and duration.
During your initial consultation, your doctor would have discussed it specific to your case and provided you with written information about them.
During your treatment, you will be seen by your doctor once a week to assess any side effects and be given advice and guidance on how to manage them.
Outside of these appointments, you can also discuss any concerns with the Radiation therapy Nurse or Radiation Therapists.
In some instances these appointments may also be used to assess response to treatment. However, in most cases, response to treatment (where applicable) will be assessed after a gap of a few weeks to months, as the radiation therapy continues to work in shrinking the cancer even after you have completed your course of treatment.