Visit with Hospital Consultant
Your radiation oncologist may ask for diagnostic procedures to be undertaken, either in the radiation therapy department or at a general hospital. These can include X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scans, biopsies and blood tests. Once the nature of the disease has been established, a treatment regime will be planned and prescribed.
MRI, CT or PET scanning is required to determine the exact size, shape and position of the area to be treated within the body, known as the treatment site. These images are then used to plan the patients’ treatment.
Once your images have been taken, your physician develops a treatment plan. The treatment plan is created using treatment planning software, which calculates the position, dose and frequency of the treatment. Before treatment commences the treatment may be simulated i.e., performed on a non-treating machine, to ensure the correct treatment will be delivered later.
Treatment may be given on an outpatient or in-patient basis. It is imperative that the prescription and treatment plan is adhered to as any missed treatment caused through sickness or equipment breakdown may affect its success. The patient usually receives the same treatment each day for a course of treatment, which can last up to six weeks. Treatment is monitored regularly and may be adjusted if the patient suffers from adverse side effects or loses weight.
To receive the radiation therapy, you will lie on a couch under the machine, and be asked to remain still during the actual treatment. The treatment is completely painless. Radiation cannot be seen or felt while it is being given.
During treatment a process of verification takes place. By using iViewGTTM on a digital linear accelerator or XVI imaging on Elekta Synergy®, images are taken of the treatment site. These images are used to verify both the patient position and the accuracy of the treatment beam.
When the treatment is completed, the patient attends follow-up clinics for up to five years. These are held to assist the patient in managing any post treatment side effects and to monitor the disease regression or progression. Initially the patient attends the Radiotherapy Center. Annual follow-ups may then be conducted at a hospital closer to the patient.