“They answered every question I had except how I can thank them.”
— Patient

1. What Exactly Is Radiation Therapy?

OK, you need radiation therapy, so what is it? Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to gradually kill cancer cells so that they can’t grow, multiply, or spread. Radiation changes the DNA in cancer cells, so when they try to multiply, they die. These radiation therapy benefits continue long after the treatments stop.

2. What Is The Difference Between Chemotherapy And Radiation Therapy?

If all the therapies sound the same to you, we can set you straight. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are two very different ways to treat cancer. With chemotherapy, drugs are delivered directly into the bloodstream to kill cancer by damaging cancer cell enzyme systems or reproductive mechanisms. Every cancer cell, no matter where it exists, is affected, and side effects from chemotherapy are systemic throughout the body. A Medical Oncologist provides this treatment.

Radiation therapy comes at cancer a different way. It uses high energy X-rays produced by a machine or by implanted radioactive material to kill cancer cells. Only the cancer cells in the treated areas of the body are affected, and side effects are usually limited to that area. A Radiation Oncologist provides this therapy.

3. What About Healthy Cells? Can Radiation Kill Those Cells Too?

Yes. But the good news is that most healthy cells can recover from the effects of radiation and function properly. Radiation only affects cells that are actively growing, and cancer cells have an abnormally rapid growth cycle. Since the growth cycle of healthy cells is much slower than cancer cells, normal tissues have more time to recover from the radiation. Thanks to advanced equipment and an individualized treatment plan, we can aim the radiation beams very precisely at the tumor while sparing the healthy tissue around it.

4. Will I Become Radioactive Because Of Radiation Therapy?

No, don’t worry. Because it’s delivered from a machine outside the body, external radiation therapy will not make you radioactive. Your body does not “store” radiation, so other people shouldn’t fear being near you just because of your treatment.

5. How Long Does The Whole Process Last? And How Many Treatments Will I Receive?

Your treatment schedule will depend on your treatment plan, which varies from individual to individual. To be better tolerated by your body, the treatment is usually given in small doses to minimize the effects of the radiation. On average, patients receiving external radiation therapy are treated once a day, three to nine weeks, for two to eight weeks. While the treatment appointments may last from 15 to 30 minutes, the actual time of each treatment is only a few minutes.

6. Can I Get My Treatments At The Same Time Every Day?

Yes, we try to schedule your treatments at the same time every day. At first, your treatment may not be at the ideal time, but your radiation therapist will do his best to schedule regular appointments that work around your schedule.

7. What Will I Feel? What Do I Have To Do During Treatment?

You will not feel a thing during treatment. Just lie still on the treatment table and relax.

8. Will I Have Any Side Effects? How Long Will They Last?

Potential side effects from radiation therapy are usually limited to the area treated. They are mild and go away a few weeks after treatment has ended. Every patient reacts differently to treatment. Some patients get a minor skin reaction. Some feel tired. Thanks to more sophisticated treatment techniques and technology, the side effects are very mild. Ask your doctor about any potential side effects that may be unique to your situation.