It can be frightening to learn that you have cancer, but one of the best antidotes to that understandable fear is to have all of the information you want about your condition and its treatment. Sovereign Health Cancer Care is committed to keeping patients fully informed every step of the way, and to answer all of your questions in an honest and compassionate manner. The sections below provide answers to questions patients frequently ask about radiation oncology, medical oncology, and surgical oncology, but don’t hesitate to ask your physician or other team member about anything else that is on your mind or of concern. In our experience, patients often are not fully aware of the considerable progress that has been made in treating cancer over the past decade or more, and so may envision scenarios or situations that are much more grim than the current reality. Don’t worry – or suffer – in silence. No question is “silly,” “dumb,” or “unimportant,” and we will provide you with complete, candid answers that will enable you to make informed decisions and be a full partner in your care.
Frequently Asked Questions – Radiation Oncology
1. What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy is the treatment of cancer with radiation. The most commonly used method is called external beam therapy, in which a beam of photons is directed precisely at your tumor. The majority of cancer patients will receive a course of external radiation as part of their treatment.
2. Will radiation therapy hurt?
No. The treatment is completely painless. Radiation cannot be seen or felt while it is being given.
3. Am I likely to have any side effects?
Radiation therapy is a localized treatment, which means that any side effects will depend on the part of the body being treated. For example, if your head is being treated, you will lose your hair. If your prostate is being treated you will not lose your hair, but you may experience urinary frequency. Many patients have few, if any, side effects, but everyone reacts differently. Your physician will review potential side effects and what to look for during your initial visit.
4. Will the treatment make me radioactive?
No. There is no possibility of this whatsoever with external beam radiotherapy.
5. Am I safe to be around children?
Yes, you are completely safe to interact with children of any age.
6. Is it safe to have sexual relations?
Yes. You cannot transfer radiation or cancer to your partner. However, if you are trying to have children, speak with your physician.
7. How long will the course of treatment last?
Treatments are delivered daily, Monday through Friday, and can last from 2 to 9 weeks depending on the stage and type of cancer.
8. How long is each daily treatment session?
Expect to be at the facility for about 20 minutes each day. So, for example, if you have a daily 9 am treatment time, expect to be back in your car by 9:20 am. The actual treatment takes 1-2 minutes.
9. What is IMRT?
IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy) is a specialized form of external beam radiotherapy in which the radiation dose is ‘wrapped’ around the cancer, sparing normal healthy surrounding tissue. Sovereign Health Cancer Care was the first oncology-care provider in New Jersey to pioneer Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy, or VMAT IMRT, which provides even better dose conformity than most standard IMRT systems.
10. What is IGRT?
IGRT (Image-Guided Radiotherapy) is performed in conjunction with IMRT and involves daily imaging just before the delivery of treatment to ensure that the tumor is perfectly targeted. Sovereign Health Cancer Care uses an advanced form of IGRT called cone beam CT to precisely target the radiation beam each and every day.
11. Can I continue working?
Yes, most people undergoing radiotherapy can continue to work full time.
12. Can I take all my medicines?
Yes, there is no interaction between radiotherapy and any medicine.
13. Can I have a glass of wine?
Yes, there is no interaction between radiotherapy and alcohol consumption.
14. What is CyberKnife® Robotic Stereotactic Radiosurgery?
The CyberKnife is the first and, thus far, only robotic stereotactic radiosurgery system designed to treat tumors anywhere in the body, including the brain, spine, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas and prostate. It delivers high doses of radiation with pin-point, sub-millimeter accuracy. Because he CyberKnife System can deliver radiation beams from virtually any direction, the radiation beams are focused precisely on the tumor, minimizing damage to the surrounding healthy tissue and nearby critical structures like the spinal cord or optic nerve.
15. How is the CyberKnife treatment tolerated by most patients?
In most patients there are minimal to no side effects associated with CyberKnife treatments. Your doctor can advise you of possible adverse effects based on your type of cancer and your specific treatment plan.
16. Has the CyberKnife System been approved by the FDA?
Yes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the CyberKnife System for the treatment of tumors in the head, neck and upper spine in 1999, and for the treatment of tumors anywhere in the body where radiation is indicated in 2001.