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Radiation Therapy Treatment

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.

Radiation therapy can help you in your fight against cancer. It begins with a planning visit to map out your treatment. During the treatment course, you’ll meet with your doctor on a routine basis. After your therapy is done, you will have 1 or more follow-up visits to check your progress. Keep all your appointments.

Woman lying on back under X-ray machine. Two health care providers are positioning patient.

Your Treatment Planning Visit

Your radiation therapy team uses a special machine called a simulator to map out your treatment. The simulator is an X-ray or CT (computerized tomography) scan machine. This machine mimics the actual radiation equipment. Laser lights act as guides to help position your body accurately. During this visit:

  • The radiation beam is shaped to hit cancer cells and avoid as many normal cells as possible.

  • The best position for your body is determined. Notes are made in your chart so you’ll be placed the same way each time.

  • Special devices may be used to keep your body correctly positioned and still during treatment. These may include molds, masks, rests, and blocks.

  • Ink marks are made on your skin over the spot to be treated. Tiny permanent tattoos may also be used. The marks act as a target for the treatment to stay at the exact same place each time.

  • Markers, such as metal balls or wires, may be placed on or in your body. These work with the X-rays to position your body. The markers are removed when the visit is over.

Your Treatments

Each treatment usually takes 10 to 30 minutes. You may need to change into a hospital gown. The radiation therapist positions you on the treatment table, then leaves the room. During treatment, lie as still as you can and breathe normally. You will hear noises coming from the machine.You can talk to the radiation therapist, who watches you from the control room on a TV monitor. After treatment, the therapist will help you off the table. You can then get dressed and go back to your normal activities.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2/3/2014
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