Radiation Therapy - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who is the healthcare team?
A: The health care team is made up of oncologists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists, oncology nurses, medical physicists, social workers, psychologists, nutritionists, pharmacists, unit coordinating assistants and volunteers.
Q: What is a Radiation Oncologist?
A: A radiation oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer patients with radiation. The radiation oncologist prescribes the course of radiation therapy.
Q: What is a Radiation Therapist?
A: A radiation therapist is a highly trained professional who specializes in the planning and delivery of internal and external beam radiation therapy.
Q: What is a CT Simulation Therapist?
A: A CT simulation therapist is a radiation therapist who operates the CT simulator and takes images of the area of the body that will be treated with radiation. The images will be used to plan the treatment.
Q: What is a Dosimetrist?
A: A dosimetrist is a radiation therapist who works closely with the radiation oncologist and medical physicist to plan how the radiation will be given and calculate the proper radiation dose for treatment.
Q: What is a Mould Room Therapist?
A: A mould room therapist is a radiation therapist who makes accessories that may be needed for your treatment. For example, specially-shaped blocks may be needed to shield an organ from radiation.
Q: What is a Brachytherapist?
A: A brachytherapist is a radiation therapist who works with the health care team to deliver internal radiation therapy using radioactive sources.
Q: What is an Oncology Nurse?
A: Oncology nurses are very knowledgeable and skilled in caring for individuals and families living with a cancer diagnosis and provide support during diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up or hospital admission.
Q: What is Radiation Therapy?
A: Radiation therapy uses exact, carefully measured doses of radiation (x-rays, gamma rays or electrons) to destroy cancer cells. It stops cells from growing and spreading. Some normal cells can be damaged by the radiation, but most are able to repair more readily than cancer cells.
Q: Does radiation therapy hurt?
A: No. Radiation therapy is just like having an x-ray taken, except higher doses are used.
Q: Will I be radioactive?
A: No. People treated with x-rays do not become radioactive. The radiation does not stay in you body after the treatment.
Q. What is a tattoo?
A: A tattoo is a permanent freckle sized mark or dot. They are used by the radiation therapists to accurately pinpoint the area for treatment every day. You do not have to worry about the pen marks washing away as the tattoos will remain as a guide for the set up.
Q: How is the radiation given?
A: Radiation can be given externally or internally. A treatment machine such as a linear accelerator is used to give the external treatment. This treatment is usually given five days a week between Monday and Friday for several days or weeks.
Internal radiation or brachytherapy uses needles, seeds or wires that have a radiation source inside them.
Q: How long does it take?
A: The radiation machine is only turned on for a couple of minutes for each treatment. The radiation therapy appointments are about 15 minutes long. It takes this amount of time to make sure that you are in the same position for the treatment as you were when the planning was done for your treatment.
Q: Who gives the radiation?
A: Radiation therapy is prescribed by a radiation oncologist. Radiation therapists will position you on the treatment bed and deliver the treatment as prescribed by the radiation oncologist.
Q: Do I have to come every day for treatment?
A: The radiation oncologist will prescribe the number of treatments. It will depend on your treatment plan. If you are to have a series of treatments, they are usually scheduled daily.
Q: Can I come at any time for my treatment?
A: At your planning appointment, you will be asked about your travel arrangements whether you prefer mornings or afternoons for treatment. We will do our best to accommodate your request, but we cannot guarantee specific times. You will be given appointments which we may need to change on occasion.
Q: When will my treatment start?
A: Treatment usually starts one to two weeks after your CT simulation. However, this is just a guide and is dependent on several factors. These factors include combination treatments, healing after surgery, treatment machine availability and complexity of the plan.
Q: What is Review Clinic?
A: You will be asked to go to review clinic once a week after you have had your radiation treatment for that day. In that clinic, you will be seen by the radiation oncology nurse who will review your progress and discuss any concerns or questions that you may have. The radiation oncology nurse will then discuss your treatment with the radiation oncology doctor and if you are well and your concerns and questions have been addressed then you can go home. The radiation oncologist may need to see you when you are in review clinic. This will depend on your concerns and questions. It is strongly recommended that you attend this weekly appointment while you are having treatment.