Each session of external beam radiation therapy is painless, and is similar to what you experience when you have an X-ray. The radiation is aimed at your tumor using a machine located away from your body. Because radiation therapy is a non-invasive procedure, unlike surgery, it is typically given during a series of outpatient sessions, which means you will not need to stay in the hospital. Depending on your specific treatment, it is possible that you may not even need to miss work or have much of a recuperation period from the therapy like you would with other types of cancer treatment.
During your treatment session, your radiation therapist will follow your radiation oncologist’s instructions. Your treatment session will be the same as your treatment simulation. The length of your treatment will depend on the type of radiation you are receiving.
You will most likely receive treatment five days a week, Monday-Friday, and treatments will last for 1-10 weeks, depending on the size, location, and type of your cancer, the intent of the treatment, your general health, and other medical treatments you may be receiving.
It will take 5-15 minutes for the radiation therapist to position you for treatment and for the team to set up the equipment. The therapist will closely monitor you on a television screen while you are receiving the radiation. You will be able to talk with the therapist if you have any questions or concerns during therapy. The therapist can stop the machine if you are feeling sick or uncomfortable during treatment.
Your radiation therapy may be interrupted for a day or more if you develop side effects that require a break in treatment. If you miss treatments, you can make them up at the end of your remaining treatments.
Your radiation oncologist may alter your radiation dose depending on how you respond to the treatment. Your doctor may also order additional tests to see how your body is responding to treatment.
If your tumors shrink significantly in response to the radiation therapy, you may require another simulation so that your radiation oncologist to change the treatment to spare even more normal tissue.
Your treatment team will regularly review your case to ensure your treatment is proceeding as planned.