Frequently asked questions about cancer treatment with radiation therapy

Radiation is high-energy X-rays designed to cause DNA damage and kill tumor cells. Radiation can cause tumor shrinkage or elimination, prevent further growth, and/or prevent tumor cells from growing back. Depending on the indication of your radiation treatment, radiation can therefore be used to help cure your cancer or help reduce and prevent symptoms from your cancer.

The duration of your radiation therapy can vary according to the type, stage, and location of the cancer as well as the type of treatment technique your radiation oncologist recommends. The number of treatment sessions could vary from just one treatment to multiple weeks of treatments (generally 4 to 5 treatments per week). Each individual treatment appointment is usually 20-40 minutes (this includes treatment set-up time as well).

Radiation is most effective when delivered on a particular treatment schedule, often 5 days per week. When a treatment session must be deferred for a medical reason or another exceptional situation, your radiation oncologist will discuss your best options. Your total number of treatments will remain the same, however.

For most cancers, the total dose and number of treatments are decided upfront at the time of your CT simulation (radiation planning CT scan). There are some situations in which additional treatments may be added if there is not the expected treatment response, or your course may be shortened if there are unanticipated side effects. Your radiation oncologist however will discuss this with you as you go through treatment. Generally, however, the initially determined number of treatments will remain true throughout.

Radiation therapy is often prescribed in combination with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and/or surgery. Depending on your overall cancer treatment plan, radiation therapy may be recommended before or after the other treatments. Your radiation oncologist may work with other cancer treatment providers to determine the most appropriate treatment combination and sequence.

It is challenging to re-irradiate the same region of the body due to the increased risk of side effects. However, there are circumstances in which this is necessary and your radiation oncologist will discuss the risks and benefits of doing so.

Radiation itself is not painful. Radiation does however cause side effects which can sometimes be uncomfortable or painful. The type and severity of side effects depend on the tumor type and region of the body being treated. Your radiation oncologist will discuss these side effects in great detail at your consult visit and will continue to monitor you closely during treatment to address side effects that occur.

As long as you choose to have your radiation therapy from an advanced and well-equipped radiation oncology center, such as Inspire Oncology, you are in safe hands. Our leading radiation oncologists deliver the treatments in a highly precise and controlled manner using the latest techniques. The qualified team at Inspire Oncology follows the highest standards of care for the delivery of treatment to achieve as safe and predictable results as possible. Your radiation oncologist will discuss any short-term and long-term side effects associated with radiation therapy.

Generally speaking, radiation will not affect your immune system and you will not be immunocompromised from this treatment. You also will not be radioactive when you go home and do not need to do anything special around family members or friends.

You will be referred to Inspire Exercise Medicine, which is affiliated with our oncology practice. The caring and knowledgeable team has been guiding patients living with cancer through medically designed exercise treatment programs since 2020, and our certified nutritionist is always available to teach strategies that help power your recovery.

Contact us at Inspire Oncology

To make an appointment with our experts, or to find out more about radiation therapy or cancer care, call us at 239.429.0400, or fill out our online form.

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