What to Expect

One of the most difficult aspects of cancer treatment is the uncertainty about what will happen during treatment—how you will feel and what side effects you may encounter. At RadiantCare, our goal is to provide education about the entire treatment process in language you can understand. By understanding the process from beginning to end, you will enter treatment with the confidence that a careful, well-designed plan has been selected for you. You will know how the treatment is expected to make you feel, you will understand the long-term effects of treatment, and you will have a good understanding of the anticipated outcomes.

radiation therapy center view from back unrecognizable adult male doctor listening complaints smiling patient
RadiantCare machine

Before Treatment

The first step in the process is meeting with your radiation oncologist for a consultation. During this visit, your doctor will review your history, perform a physical exam and make treatment recommendations. This will include a discussion of the type of radiation being recommended, the number of

treatments, and the anticipated side effects.

After the initial consultation, a radiation treatment planning CT scan, also known as a “simulation”, is scheduled. A CT scan takes a “snapshot” of how the body appears in the treatment position. You will usually be positioned lying on your back for this scan. Small permanent tattoo marks are placed on the skin at this visit, allowing more precise set up on the days of treatment. Sometimes an immobilization device such as a mask or body mold will be used for reproducibility. At the end of this visit, you will be given an appointment time for your first treatment.

Your radiation oncologist designs the treatment plan by carefully studying your CT scan, creating volumes on the scan where the radiation will be targeted and outlining areas to avoid. This scan is sometimes combined with other imaging studies such as PET scans and MRIs.

Radiation Therapy Center - Location Lacey building

During Treatment

You will arrive for treatment each day at your appointment time, checking in at the front desk and waiting in a private patient waiting area. Lockers are available for storing personal belongings. You will be taken into the treatment room by our radiation therapists, whose job is to position you

carefully on the treatment table each day and deliver that day’s treatment.

No radiation is present in the treatment room when you enter. You are positioned on the treatment table in the same way you were for the treatment planning CT scan, usually lying on your back with your head and knees supported. The therapists will carefully position you with some lasers in the room, aligning to the small tattoo marks on your skin.

After positioning, the therapists will leave the room and close the door. They will be able to communicate with you over a microphone system and can see you with a video camera. From outside the room, they will take an X-ray or CT scan to check your position against the treatment planning CT, making any necessary adjustments to ensure perfect alignment. The machine will then deliver that day’s treatment. You will hear some sounds as this is occurring and will notice the machine moving to different angles around your body. You will not feel pain or discomfort as the treatment is being given and you will not see the radiation, as it is invisible. The treatment lasts about 5 minutes, but expect to spend about 30 minutes each day in our clinic from beginning to end.

When treatment is complete, the therapists will return to the room and you will get up from the treatment table. You are not radioactive or carrying the radiation with you, so you are able to return to your normal daily routine. Many patients can drive themselves to and from their appointments.

One day per week, you will meet with a nurse and your doctor to review your progress or any side effects you may be experiencing. We are also available to speak with you on any day of your treatment and can be reached after hours by phone. You should feel free to make us aware of any concerns you have during treatment. Our goal is to make the treatment as safe and comfortable for you as possible.

Radiation Treatment Services

After Treatment

The side effects of radiation typically occur later during treatment and extend several weeks after treatment is complete. On your last treatment day, you will meet with a nurse to review the post-treatment plan. Follow-up visits in our clinic or with your referring doctor will be scheduled to monitor your

recovery. Your referring doctor will schedule periodic exams, lab tests or imaging studies to assess for recurrence or progression of disease. You are encouraged to contact us at any time after treatment with questions about your recovery or next steps in your treatment plan. Even if you are not being seen regularly in our clinic, you are still welcome to call or schedule a visit with us as needed.

In addition to follow-up medical appointments, many patients benefit from participating in cancer survivorship or support groups. Our goal for most patients is a complete recovery from treatment. When a full recovery is not expected or for those nearing the end of life, palliative care or hospice services are available.