Radiation Oncology FAQ

Who delivers my treatment?
Your doctor, also known as a radiation oncologist, specifies what is to be treated and for how long. This includes the amount of radiation you will receive each day and the total number of treatment days. Your doctor will also manage any medical problems that may develop during your treatment. In the Radiation Oncology Department, each patient under treatment has a scheduled appointment at least once a week with his or her radiation oncologist. If a problem occurs outside of this scheduled appointment time, arrangements can be made to meet with the doctor or a nurse who works with the doctor. A radiation therapist delivers the prescribed treatment and will help you before and after your treatments. All radiation therapists at Harrington Cancer Center are licensed, certified professionals who have completed extensive training in radiation treatment delivery and patient care.


Will the treatments hurt while they are being given?
No, the treatments do not hurt. However, the treatment table is firm and can be a little uncomfortable. Over time, you may experience side effects from your treatment. Before you start treatment, your doctor will review with you the potential side effects that you may expect.

Will I be radioactive after receiving a treatment?
No. After treatment, you will not be radioactive. You can continue to enjoy the same contact with your family and friends as before your diagnosis without fear of exposing them to radiation.


Why do the treatments last more than a few weeks?
Over the years, our radiation oncologists have collaborated with other physicians across the world to determine the most effective doses of radiation needed to treat patients. The large doses that often are necessary to treat your tumor cannot be given at one time because of the severe side effects they would cause. On average, the course of treatment for radiation therapy takes five to seven weeks. This time period enables your body to better tolerate the effects of the radiation.


Why must I remain alone during my treatment?
Each radiation therapist treats about 30 patients each day. If the radiation therapist stayed in the treatment room with every patient each day, they would receive extremely high doses of radiation, placing their health at risk over time. Even though the radiation therapist is not in the treatment room with you, you are not really alone. You are always being monitored by intercom and video camera. If you ever need assistance during your treatment, all you need to do is speak up. The radiation therapist can stop the treatment and attend to your needs.


What delays can I expect?
Sometimes you may have to wait for your treatment or to see the doctor because of an especially busy treatment day. However, if you wait longer than 30 minutes, please check with the receptionist or your nurse. The most frequent cause of delay is equipment downtime. This happens when a radiation therapy machine cannot be used because it is being serviced. In most cases of downtime, you will be asked to wait, or you may be treated on another machine.


What should I do about medicine?
Tell your doctor or radiation therapy nurse if you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines. He or she will review your current medications, which usually can be continued throughout your treatment. Your primary care doctor will still prescribe any medications you are taking for problems other than cancer.