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CancerLynx - we prowl the net
January 31, 2000

General Information on Radiation Therapy
Pamela F. Akazawa, CMD

Radiation Therapy is used to treat cancers and some benign diseases. The radiation will destroy cells in the path of the radiation beam. The healthy cells in the radiation path recover quickly but may cause side effects. These side effects are usually managed best by talking with your Physician.

A Radiation Therapist, acting under the supervision of a Radiation Oncologist, sets the machine to your exact parameters. These parameters are usually acquired at the time of simulation. A simulation uses a scaled down version of a treatment machine that can take regular X-rays. While on the simulator table the Physician and Radiation Therapist will outline the exact treatment areas, or fields and take x-rays to insure accuracy. This procedure may take some time, so ask how long you should expect to be at the simulator.

Once the simulation is complete some calculations and measurements need to be done. These calculations will determine the dose to be delivered and the length of time you will need to be treated. Many times this can take a few days so the start of treatment may be scheduled for a later day.

The number of treatments may vary depending on your case. A full course of treatment will take weeks. You will need to have scheduled appointments for each day you need treatment, this can be discussed with the treatment therapist after your first day of treatment

Because the area to be treated will be carefully outlined, only the body part in the field of radiation should be affected. While being treated you will not be able to see the radiation nor will it be painful. However during the treatment you will be alone for several minutes. A television camera and an intercom system allow the therapist to see and communicate with you. You should allow 30-45 minutes for each treatment.

When you have completed your course of treatments the Radiation Oncologist may ask to see you for follow-up visits.

Pamela F. Akazawa, CMD
University of California at San Francisco Radiation Oncology

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