Frequently Asked Questions

There are several things to consider before starting radiation therapy. Here are common questions we receive and links to other resources. Please click on each question for the answer.

If you have other questions or need more information, please call our office at 505.727.7900.

Treatment Information

Radiation therapy is form of cancer treatment that uses high-energy particles to destroy or damage cancer cells. Once the cancer cells are damaged, they are not able to grow or spread throughout the body. Although normal cells are affected by the radiation, they are able to repair themselves, unlike cancer cells.

Radiation therapy is a very common treatment for cancer and can be used alone or with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery.

Radiation therapy can be used to cure cancer by shrinking the tumor prior to surgery, eliminating the tumor or killing cancer cells after chemotherapy or surgery. Radiation therapy can also be used to reduce symptoms and side effects of cancer by shrinking the size of the tumor to relieve pain or improve quality of life.

External beam radiation therapy: your treatment team uses a linear accelerator outside of your body to direct beam(s) of radiation are directed through your skin to the cancer tumor and surrounding area. The radiation is able to destroy the tumor and any nearby cancer cells.

Brachytherapy: your treatment team will place radioactive sources in or just next to a tumor. These may be left in place permanently or only temporarily, depending upon your cancer.

Your safety is our first priority when delivering radiation therapy. Before you begin radiation therapy, your treatment team will design a treatment plan that is effective and safe. Treatment will be carefully planned to focus on the cancer while avoiding healthy organs in the area. The team will continually check the plan during your treatment to make sure it is still accurate and safe for you.

During external beam radiation therapy, the radiation will leave your body and you will not be radioactive after treatment ends. However, if you undergo brachytherapy, tiny radioactive sources will be implanted inside your body, either temporarily or permanently. Your radiation oncologist will explain any special precautions that you or your family and friends may need to take.

Be sure to discuss any concerns or fears that you might have with your treatment team. They are here to answer your questions.

You may be wondering what to expect if you are receiving radiation therapy. Here is some information to help you prepare.

Before Treatment

You will first meet with a radiation oncologist to determine if radiation therapy will be helpful in treating your cancer. Your case will usually be discussed with a multidisciplinary team to individualize your treatment plan.

Once you have decided on radiation therapy, your body and tumor will be measured in a process called “simulation.” This measurement helps direct the radiation beams more accurately.

Following simulation, your radiation oncologist and treatment team will develop a treatment plan based on your simulation measurements and previous medical tests. Their goal is to provide an effective treatment that limits radiation exposure to your healthy tissue. Your treatment team will test this plan on the linear accelerator to ensure their treatment plan is accurate and safe.

During Treatment

External beam radiation therapy treatment is painless, non-invasive and can be given in a series of outpatient appointments.

Your radiation therapist will position you, set up the equipment and deliver the external beam treatment from a control room next door where they can monitor you from a television screen. You can always use the microphone to speak to the therapist if you are uncomfortable or need to stop the session at any time.

Your radiation oncologist will review your daily records and may make adjustments to the dose or request further tests based on these observations. Treatments are usually scheduled for five days a week and it’s best to make every appointment. In addition to your treatment appointments, you will have weekly check-ups with your radiation oncologist and nurse to discuss your progress.

After Treatment

Once your radiation therapy is complete, you will have several follow-up appointments to ensure your recovery is going well. Your radiation oncologist will continue to meet with other doctors treating your cancer and share these reports.

As your recovery progresses, you will have less frequent appointments with your radiation oncologist. We recommend continuing appointments though, to monitor any long-term side effects from the radiation. Your treatment team is always an available resource to you following your treatment.

Although there will be side effects from radiation therapy, they are usually temporary, mild, treatable and located around the area being treated, such as mild irritation.

The most common side effect you may experience is fatigue, so it’s important to take time to rest during your treatment. Long term side effects are rare, but can occur. Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have about long term side effects with your radiation oncologist.

Radiation therapy is a major component of your cancer treatment, but there are some things you can do at home as well.

  1. Get plenty of rest.
  2. Follow your doctor’s orders.
  3. Eat a healthy diet.
  4. Stay hydrated.
  5. Treat the skin that is exposed to radiation with extra care.
  6. Seek out support.

For more helpful information about radiation therapy, visit these websites: