External Beam Radiation Therapy
|What is external beam radiation therapy?||External beam radiation therapy comes from a machine that aims radiation at your cancer. The machine is large and may be noisy. It does not touch you, but rotates around you, sending radiation to your body from many directions.|
External beam radiation therapy is a local treatment, meaning that the radiation is aimed only at a specific part of your body. For example, if you have lung cancer, you will get radiation to your chest only and not the rest of your body.
External beam radiation therapy comes from a machine that aims radiation at your cancer.
|How often will I get external beam radiation therapy?||Most people get external beam radiation therapy once a day, 5 days a week, Monday through Friday. Treatment lasts for 2 to 10 weeks, depending on the type of cancer you have and the goal of your treatment. The time between your first and last radiation therapy sessions is called a course of treatment.|
Radiation is sometimes given in smaller doses twice a day (hyperfractionated radiation therapy). Your doctor may prescribe this type of treatment if he or she feels that it will work better. Although side effects may be more severe, there may be fewer late side effects. Doctors are doing research to see which types of cancer are best treated this way.
|Where do I go for external beam radiation therapy?||Most of the time, you will get external beam radiation therapy as an outpatient. This means that you will have treatment at a clinic or radiation therapy center and will not have to stay in the hospital.|
|What happens before my first external beam radiation treatment?|
If you are getting radiation to the head, you may need a mask.
|You will have a 1- to 2-hour meeting with your doctor or nurse before you begin radiation therapy. At this time, you will have a physical exam, talk about your medical history, and maybe have imaging tests. Your doctor or nurse will discuss external beam radiation therapy, its benefits and side effects, and ways you can care for yourself during and after treatment. You can then choose whether to have external beam radiation therapy.|
If you agree to have external beam radiation therapy, you will be scheduled for a treatment planning session called a simulation. At this time:
|Tell your radiation therapist if your ink marks begin to fade or lose color.|
|What should I wear when I get external beam radiation therapy?||Wear clothes that are comfortable and made of soft fabric, such as cotton. Choose clothes that are easy to take off, since you may need to change into a hospital gown or show the area that is being treated. Do not wear clothes that are tight, such as close-fitting collars or waistbands, near your treatment area. Also, do not wear jewelry, BAND-AIDS®, powder, lotion, or deodorant in or near your treatment area, and do not use deodorant soap before your treatment.|
|What happens during treatment sessions?|
Your entire visit may last from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Most of that time is spent setting you in the correct position. You will get radiation for only 1 to 5 minutes. If you are getting IMRT, your treatment may last longer. Your visit may also take longer if your treatment team needs to take and review x-rays.
|Your radiation therapist can see, hear, and talk with you at all times while you are getting external beam radiation therapy.|
|Will external beam radiation therapy make me radioactive?||No, external beam radiation therapy does not make people radioactive. You may safely be around other people, even babies and young children.|
|How can I relax during my treatment sessions?|