What to Expect
At Central Alabama Radiation Oncology, we believe that each patient is unique and deserves the best in patient care.
We go to great lengths to ensure your experience is as comfortable as possible, and that you are given individualized care and consideration. Here is a brief overview of what you can expect during your visits to Central Alabama Radiation Oncology.
The consultation is critical to both you and your physician. During the consultation, the radiation oncologist performs a physical examination and obtains your medical history. It is helpful to prepare for the consultation by bringing x-rays, medical records, a list of medications, insurance information, and referral forms. There will be a great deal of information communicated during the consultation, so we recommend that you prepare a list of questions prior to the consultation to assure they are all answered. You may also want to bring a family member or close friend with you to the consultation to help understand all of the information exchanged. After the consultation, the radiation oncologist will typically communicate with any other treating physicians to determine the appropriate course of treatment. Once a final decision is made to use radiation therapy, your team will discuss the treatment plan and alternatives with you and will present a consent form for you to sign prior to treatment. It is important to read and understand the consent form prior to signing it.
Next, we will schedule a planning session, or simulation. Simulation is used to determine how the radiation will actually be delivered. A CT simulator will allow the radiation oncologist and technologists to obtain images which are transferred to the planning system. At this point, the treatment delivery plan is finalized using a virtual 3-D image created by the CT simulator. Once the aspects of the treatment fields are set, you will be given multiple “tattoos,” which mark the treatment fields. These tattoos are not elaborate and consist of no more than tiny pricks which look like a small freckle. Tattoos enable the radiation technologists to set up the treatment fields precisely, while allowing you to wash and bathe without worrying about removing the marks.
Each patient at Central Alabama Radiation Oncology receives a customized individual radiation treatment plan. The plan is unique to each patient depending on the size and location of their cancer. After simulation and prior to actual treatment, several steps occur behind the scenes without the patient present. The simulation x-ray may be used to design special lead alloy blocks that are used to minimize the amount of radiation delivered to normal tissues, while maximizing the dose to the cancer site. Sophisticated computer software performs calculations to help ensure the proper radiation dose will be delivered. It may take several days for treatment planning to be completed. After treatment planning is complete, you are ready to begin radiation therapy.
During treatment, you must lie very still while the radiation beam is targeted to the exact area of the tumor. The machine and treatment table may rotate up to 360 degrees. The technologists will not be in the room during the treatment, but they will be monitoring the treatment via a video camera and an audio connection with the treatment room. You will not feel the radiation as it is being delivered. Radiation therapy is generally given once a day, five days per week, usually at the same time each day. The number of treatments depends upon multiple factors and varies from 5-10 to 40 or more. While the first few visits might last for an hour or more, typically a daily radiation treatment requires only about 15-30 minutes in the treatment room. The delivery of the radiation treatment depends upon the type of cancer. Click here for more information on the most common cancer types and their typical treatment methods.