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Radiation Therapy

A cancer treatment option that uses intense beams of energy to kill cancer cells

Woman in blue light on CT Scan table

Cancer is a disease that causes normal cells in the body to grow out of control. Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying and growing. 

Radiation therapy is painless, and you do not feel anything while the treatments are given. About 50 to 60 percent of cancer patients are treated with radiation. Radiation therapy can be used alone in the fight against cancer or in conjunction with surgery and/or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is used in the hope of curing cancer, as well as to help relieve a cancer patient’s pain.

Pre-treatment consultation

A pre-treatment consultation with one of our radiation oncologist consists of:

  • The radiation oncologist reviewing the results of previous tests to determine your treatment options. 
  • You will learn about how your treatment works and possible side effects you might experience. The oncologist may order additional tests like X-ray examinations, blood work or scans.
  • A nurse who will take your pulse, blood pressure, weight, health history and history of your present illness.

We encourage you to have a family member or significant other accompany you to this visit. There will be a lot of information discussed at the consultation, so it is helpful to have a supportive friend there to help you process the information, ask questions and take notes. You can expect this meeting to last at least an hour.

Woman positioned on CT Scan table for treatment

The treatment process

After the initial consultation, a treatment simulation is performed in order to gather more information about the location and size of the tumor. This simulation can greatly enhance the accuracy of your treatment.. CT simulation allows the radiation oncologist to directly visualize your particular anatomy and treat only the targeted tissue while identifying and avoiding critical structures. This greatly reduces unwanted side effects.

On the day of your first treatment, you will be positioned with a immobilization device on the treatment table. The TomoTherapy machine adjust the treatment table and deliver the high-energy beam according to your specific programmed treatment plan.

The actual treatment may take five to fifteen minutes to complete. You will not feel anything during the treatment, and you will not see any movement of the machine, which is shaped like a large CT scanner. During the treatment, the high-energy Linear Accelerator within the machine will be rotating in a pattern of a CT scan and will be continuously changing to shape itself to your anatomy. This process will be repeated for every one of your treatments to assure the greatest precision and accuracy. Your radiation therapists lead this process.

Radiation treatments are typically given daily, Monday through Friday.

Your radiation oncologist and other members of your treatment team carefully study the information gathered during the simulation to better understand your specific case and to determine the appropriate course of treatment. Taking your general medical condition into consideration, your treatment team uses computer-aided technology to develop a plan that provides the safest and most effective treatment for you. 

Frequently asked questions

Most patients are able to drive themselves to treatment, but check with your physician to make sure it is safe for your particular case.
Yes. Treatments are given Monday through Friday.
Each treatment session will last between 15 and 20 minutes.
You will only lose your hair if we are treating in the head region.
No. Radiation therapy is much like receiving an X-ray. You will not feel anything while receiving treatment.
Fatigue is a side effect of radiation, but most people are able to continue with their daily activities.
Since radiation treatment is localized to the area of your body with the tumor, your side effects generally are limited to that area as well. Your skin might be red, irritated or swollen at the treatment site. Please talk to your doctor about the side effects you might experience based on the location of your tumor.
Yes. While receiving external radiation treatments, you are not at risk of endangering others.
Every patient’s treatment plan is unique. Talk to your doctor to find out what your next steps will be. Remember, you are not alone in this fight. We are always here for you after treatment.
No. Most new patients are able to schedule an appointment within one week of calling.

The TomoTherapy system

HSHS St. Mary's utilizes the TomoTherapy Hi-Art system. It is one of the most advanced and versatile radiation therapy systems currently available for the treatment of a wide variety of cancers. TomoTherapy is so precise, it opens the door to treat certain types of cancer that previous radiation methods could not, and you will not find it anywhere else in Macon County.