Your first appointment with AHA Regional Cancer Treatment Center is for consultation with the doctor. This includes a health history, a physical exam, and a discussion of treatment recommendation. Diagnostic tests may be ordered to determine the extent of your disease and/or determine your body's readiness to start treatment.
Your second appointment is usually for review of test results and/or simulation. Simulation involves using x-rays to determine treatment field outlines and placing marks on the skin so that the same precise area can be treated daily. Treatments may begin on this day, but usually follow a day or two later allowing for complex treatment planning. The simulation appointment can take 30 minutes to one hour.
The number of treatments you will be receiving depends on the size, location, type and radio sensitivity of the tumor, as well as your general condition. You will see your doctor at least once a week for evaluation, to assess your medications, and to answer any questions that you may have. It is very helpful to make a list of your questions. Treatments are given Monday through Friday, usually at the same time daily to afford some structure for the patient. We will make all attempts to accommodate patients with their appointment times as is possible. Occasionally, there are unavoidable delays that necessitate waiting beyond scheduled appointment times.
Radiation treatments are painless and only last 1-2 minutes. The technician will position you on the table and then leave the room during the actual treatment, as though you were receiving an x-ray. You will be monitored on an audiovisual system. It is important that you lie very still during the radiation treatment. After external treatments you are not radioactive.
The skin markings placed on your body by our physicians to indicate treatment areas should not be washed away until you are instructed to do so. Paper tape may be used to cover the marks to prevent them from rubbing off on clothing or accidentally washing off while bathing. Avoid wearing tight fitting clothing over the treatment area. Cotton clothing (as opposed to synthetics) is preferred to be worn over the treatment area only. Skin should be clean and dry for the treatment. Do not apply soap, creams, ointments or cosmetics to the treatment area unless approved by the doctor. Protect the skin from direct sunlight. Do not use hot water bottles, heating pads, or sun lamps on the treatment area. If your underarm is in the treatment field, do not use deodorant or shave.
Patients are encouraged to drink 1 1/2 quarts of liquid daily, unless they are on a fluid restriction. To maintain their weight, patients are also encouraged to eat a high protein, high calorie diet. Eating small, frequent meals may be helpful for patients who feel full after only a small amount of food is eaten. In some instances, a soft, bland, low fiber diet may be helpful in controlling diarrhea, should that become a problem.
Some fatigue or lethargy is common in patients receiving radiation therapy. It is important to avoid becoming over tired. Rest periods during the day are helpful. Avoid other people who have colds or infections. Avoid smoking. Alcoholic beverages may be used in moderation if approved by your doctor.
Specific side effects due to radiation therapy are related to the size and location of the area being treated. Each patient will be advised about these side effects which are specific to them. Please let the staff know of any problems or concerns you may have. It may be helpful to keep a written list of questions for your weekly visit with the doctor. If you have a question or problem that needs attention on your appointment day, please let the nurse know when you arrive, rather than when you are ready to leave, to minimize your waiting.
Skin Care During Radiation Therapy
During each treatment the radiation passes through the skin. The skin on the treatment area becomes sensitive and tans or reddens. This is an expected reaction. The hair on the skin may be decreased or absent. Some patients also experience skin reaction where the radiation exits the body. For example, if the patient received radiation therapy to the upper chest, he may also have a skin reaction on his upper back.
Remember to follow these directions for the skin in your radiation treatment area only:
Apply gentle cleansing with mild soap (Ivory), if any, using lukewarm water and patting dry.
Use NO cream, ointment, powder, aftershave, perfume, or deodorant unless specifically approved by your physician.
Avoid pressure, friction, or irritation to the area - soft cotton clothing is preferred to be worn over the treatment area.
Do not use ice bags, hot water bottles, heating pads, sun lamps, or allow for direct sun exposure to the treated area. Skin that has undergone radiation is permanently sensitized to direct sunlight. Use of sunscreen products or keeping the treated skin covered is necessary indefinitely.
Do not use tape.
Avoid razor shaving. Limited electric shaving is acceptable.
This material was taken from the booklet "Radiation Therapy and You" published by the National Institutes of Health.