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.