Your initial consultation
At your first appointment, you will meet your radiation oncologist. A radiation oncologist is a specialist doctor who prescribes a course of radiation therapy treatment and manages your care. Your radiation oncologist will describe your treatment options, explain the aim of your radiation therapy and discuss any possible side effects. You can then make an informed decision about your treatment. You will be given information about any tests or scans that may be needed before starting treatment. If you decide to go ahead with radiation therapy, you will be asked to sign a consent form.
If needed, the radiation oncologist will introduce you to other members of our team. This team will support your physical, emotional and social well-being during your treatment. This includes managing any side effects you might experience.
Planning CT scan or simulation
Before you can start your radiation therapy we need to decide the best way to deliver your treatment. The first step is for you to have a planning CT scan or ‘simulation’ appointment. This CT scan is different to any other CT scans you may have had. There will be no report or results available from this scan. It is only used to plan your treatment.
During this appointment, the radiation therapists will:
- Decide the best position for you to be in for treatment. This will consider your comfort and our requirements
- If needed, make equipment to help you stay in position for treatment, such as a mould or mask.
From your planning CT scan, your radiation oncologist and radiation therapists work together to create a treatment plan just for you.
The radiation oncologist marks the area in your body that requires radiation therapy treatment. The radiation therapist creates a precise plan of the radiation beams that will deliver the correct dose to the treatment area but also minimise dose to the healthy parts of your body. This treatment plan is developed on a complex planning computer using very precise measurements and calculations. Our priority is to ensure we create the best possible plan for you.
On the day of your first radiation therapy treatment, you will meet one of your radiation therapists who will explain the treatment process. Two radiation therapists will work together to deliver your treatment. So that your treatment is given correctly each day, it is important that you follow their directions.
The radiation therapists will leave the room to deliver your treatment. X-ray images may be taken to check you are in the correct position before the treatment starts. These images cannot show us if your treatment is working, only that you are in the correct position. To give your treatment, the machine will move around you to different positions and will turn on and off. You will not see or feel the radiation, but you will hear the machine and see it moving. The radiation therapists can see you on a video monitor and hear you through microphones in the room. They can interrupt the treatment at any time if you need assistance.
Radiation therapy treatment may be a single appointment, or up to 8 weeks of daily appointments, Monday to Friday. The number of treatments you require depends on the type of cancer, the aim of your treatment and any other treatments (surgery, chemotherapy) you may have. The delivery of your radiation therapy treatment usually takes 10-30 minutes.
Side effects of radiation therapy
On your first day of treatment, you will meet a radiation therapy nurse. The nurse will give you information about any side effects you can expect and how to look after yourself during treatment. Side effects only occur to the area of your body being treated. If you have any concerns about side effects, please let a radiation therapist or nurse know so that we can give you care and advice. You will also see your radiation oncologist or their registrar regularly during treatment. If needed, you may be referred to see another member of our allied health team to assist you during your treatment.