My First Visit

Your first visit to Mojave Radiation Oncology Center will be for a consultation with our radiation oncology team. The team will consist of a nurse, a radiation oncologist (doctor), a nurse practitioner and a fellow (doctor). We also have dietitians and social workers available to assist you if necessary.

When you first arrive, you will greeted by our front desk staff, who will gather some information to register you for your visit. They will also take a face photo.

Next, the nurse will take your vital signs and ask you questions regarding your medications and medical history. It is important to remember to bring a list of all medications you are currently taking. The nurse will also give you educational materials about radiation therapy. If you feel that you may have any problems with transportation to and from treatment or any lodging problems, please notify the nurse at this time so that she may arrange for a social worker to assist you.

Next, you will meet with your doctor, a fellow and a nurse practitioner. They will review all of your tests, lab work and scans, obtain a health history and gather more information from you about your condition. They will also perform a physical exam and discuss treatment options with you. Your team may also order additional tests or scans at this time. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you may have. You are encouraged to ask.

A simulation is a treatment planning step and not an actual treatment. It is performed by specially trained technologists under the supervision of the radiation oncologist. The procedure “simulates” or “mimics” the treatment machine.

During this procedure, you will be asked to lie still on a table, and the table will move back and forth and you may see red lights. Special treatment devices, such as a mask, may be used for your treatment. They are used to help immobilize and keep the body in the same position daily. If there is a need to use contrast or any markers for your simulation, this will be discussed with you in advance.

You will be required to lie still for the simulation and it generally last about 20-30 minutes. If this will be difficult for you, please discuss this with your radiation oncologist (doctor).

Once the simulation is complete, the technologist will put some marks on your skin (unless you have a special mask or other device that the marks will be placed on). It is very important that these marks stay on throughout your treatment. They will be covered with a clear sticky bandage-type material to help you keep them. Please make every effort to keep these marks to avoid having to have another simulation.

The technician will then take photographs of you lying on the table. The photos will be placed in your chart to identify your marks and how you were set up to help ensure accuracy on the treatment machine.

Treatment planning is performed on a special computer that takes images gathered during the simulation and lets the doctor see them up close. Treatment planning is done to protect the healthy tissues that surround the cancer cells or tumor and to make sure that the radiation is aimed at the targeted area (cancer cells). The doctor will work with the dosimetrist or physicist (treatment planners) to create your treatment plan.

It may take several weeks for treatment planning to be completed. After all treatment planning is complete, it may be necessary for you to return for verification before treatment begins.

Once your treatment plan is verified, you will receive a phone call from one of our radiation therapists to schedule a time to begin your radiation. Your treatments will be daily Monday-Friday for several weeks.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation, or radiotherapy, is a type of treatment used in the management of cancer. Radiation uses high-dose energy to kill cancer cells and help prevent them from spreading to other areas of the body.

It may be used alone, or in combination with chemotherapy and surgery to treat cancer. Sometimes, when cure is not possible, radiation may also be used to help alleviate symptoms, such as pain and discomfort.

There are two main types of radiation – external beam radiation and internal radiation. Your doctor will decide which type is best for you and your situation.

External beam radiation, the most common form, is radiation that is delivered by a machine to your body from the outside. The treatment is painless, and consists of lying on a table while the machine moves and aims the radiation at the targeted area.

Internal radiation, also known as brachytherapy, is delivered in the form of seeds, applicators or radioactive substances, which are placed inside your body.

The purpose of radiation therapy is to kill cancer cells. Radiation affects all rapidly dividing cells, both normal and abnormal. Treatment is designed to maximize the radiation dose to the Cancer cells while minimizing harmful effects to normal tissue. Normal cells have a greater ability to repair themselves then do cancer cells. Because it is impossible to shield all normal tissue, some side effects may occur. Your doctor and nurse will discuss the specific side effects with you.

Radiation is aimed from machines outside the body (external beam radiation) or is introduced into the body via materials called radioisotopes. This kind of internal radiation is called interstitial radiation or brachytherapy. Radioisotopes are placed in or near the tumor or in the area of the cancer cells. Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance that circulates throughout the body.

Radiation may be the only treatment, or it may be used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. It may be done before surgery to reduce the size of a tumor to make removal easier, but radiation therapy is more often done after cancer surgery. It may also be used with chemotherapy. It depends on the type of cancer being treated.

Receiving Radiation Therapy

The first treatment usually takes about 30-45 minutes, somewhat longer than the usual 10-15 minutes, due to additional accuracy and safety procedures. We try to arrange your daily treatment to fit your schedule, which will be discussed with the therapists, who are responsible for the treatment machine schedule.

Treatments are usually given once daily, Monday through Friday. On the average, patients can expect a 10 – 15 minute visit each day. Actual treatments usually take 4 minutes or less, but 15 minute appointments are scheduled to allow for set-up, clothing changes, and “port films”. Treatment courses can be as short as one day or as long as 8 weeks, the average treatment course lasting from two to six weeks.

There are risks involved in treating any disease. The potential side effects of your radiation therapy will be thoroughly discussed with you by your radiation oncologist and nurse. Every precaution is taken to spare normal tissue and reduce the possibility of side effects. It should be noted that many people complete radiation therapy with little or no side effects.

It is important for you to receive each scheduled radiation treatment. If for some reason you need to miss a scheduled appointment, you should notify your radiation therapist. On occasion, your radiation oncologist may decide to give you a rest from treatment to allow normal tissue to heal. If a treatment is missed, that missed treatment will be added onto the end of your schedule, so your finish date will move back by however many days you have missed.

Just as with a routine x-ray, there is no sensation to the radiation.

Side effects are site specific. So the side effects you receive depend on the area that is being treated. Most people do experience some skin reddening of the site of treatment. For further information about side effects please ask you primary nurse or physician.

If radiation therapy is recommended and you consent, the next step is a treatment planning session. You will also meet your primary nurse who will provide you with written material, as well as a video, describing the radiation Therapy process. Your primary therapist will be available to you throughout your treatment course.

You will not see or feel anything as you are being treated, but you will hear the machine running.

No, you are not radioactive and you will not be a danger to anyone during or after your course of radiation therapy.

You will lose your hair only in the area that is receiving radiation. The hair on your head will not be affected unless you are receiving radiation to your head. The loss usually is not permanent. Be sure to ask your radiation oncologists or primary Therapist any additional questions about hair loss.

Every person’s treatment is specific to them, therefore different. Thus treatment times can range anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. Plan on being in the department for an hour every day.

Most people can get to daily treatments without help. If you are not feeling well, you may need to ask a family member or friend to take you to your treatment. Let us know if you are having problems with transportation.

Most people are able to continue their regular activities during their treatment, but each person’s situation is very different. You and your physician will be able to determine what is best for you.

Additional Questions

You may have sex if it is comfortable for you. You are not radioactive, and your partner is in no danger from the radiation treatments or the cancer. If you are a woman of childbearing age and have sex during treatment, you must use some type of birth control. Your doctor can help you decide what kind of birth control is best for you.

If you want or need to talk with someone about other sexual health concerns, we can help you schedule an appointment with a social worker. Coping with the diagnosis of cancer and its treatment can be difficult. The radiation therapy health care team is here to help you. Please tell your nurse or doctor about your concerns.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Every day, choose foods from these groups: breads and cereals; meats, eggs or beans; milk or milk products; vegetables and fruits (Except in certain situations).
  • Try to eat enough food to keep your weight at the same level as before treatment. Your body needs more calories now, so you may need to eat more than usual. A dietitian from the radiation therapy clinic can help you set up a food plan.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse if you lose or gain 10 or more pounds.
  • Drink at least 8 cups of fluid every day. Fluids may include water, gelatin, ice pops, juices, iced tea, soup, and milk.
  • If you notice your weight going down, try to drink fluids that are high in calories, such as milk shakes or nutritional supplements.
  • Get some exercise (e.g, Walking). It is OK to continue your regular activities as long as you take rest periods and do not overexert yourself. Your doctor will talk with you about how much exercise you should get.
  • Try to sleep at least six hours at night, and take naps during the day if you can.

On your initial visit with the radiation oncologist, let us know if you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines. These can usually be continued throughout your treatment, but some changes may be recommended. Once you begin treatment, you will meet with the radiation oncologist weekly; if needed, he or she will prescribe medication to help reduce any side effects. Your local primary care doctor will still prescribe any medications you are taking for problems other than cancer. On your initial visit with the radiation oncologist, let us know if you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines. These can usually be continued throughout your treatment, but some changes may be recommended. Once you begin treatment, you will meet with the radiation oncologist weekly; if needed, he or she will prescribe medication to help reduce any side effects. Your local primary care doctor will still prescribe any medications you are taking for problems other than cancer.

If you or your family members have any questions about your care, please ask us or any member of the radiation therapy team.

Being told that you have cancer can affect you and your family in many different ways. A social worker may be able to help you with individual counseling, support groups, community resources, transportation, and housing.

With your help, your radiation therapy team can give you the best care possible.