For Patients and their Families…
When you or your loved one needs Cancer treatment, you have a lot to understand as well as think about. It’s normal to feel confused and overwhelmed.
Questions you may be asking yourself include: What are my chances? Is there something I can do? What can I expect?
Yes, there is something you can do. Learn as much as you can about your Cancer. Specifically, learn about the proven; evidence-based, treatment steps that improve your chances for disease-free survival.
Ask questions to better understand all your Cancer treatment options. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand. You may not be familiar with the words and medical terms used. So, don’t be afraid to ask the same questions again and again. It’s normal to have to read & listen to explanations several times to understand your unique situation.
Family members and friends are an important part of your social support system. You don’t have to face Cancer by yourself. It’s helpful to speak with supportive people about your experiences. So, consider going to your health care appointments with a friend or family member.
It’s your body, so you get to choose which treatment you get. Talk with your healthcare providers to better understand your health & well-being. Reflect on these conversations and listen for a consensus on a treatment course of action. After gathering information, you will be ready to decide about your treatment.
Here are four common steps a patient preparing for Radiation Therapy treatment will encounter. Your experience may differ based on your personal circumstances.Step 1. Learning about Radiation Therapy treatment
Step 1. Learning about Radiation Therapy treatment overview
In Step 1. Learning about Radiation Therapy treatment, you’ll get simple answers to the following frequently asked questions:Why should I learn about Radiation Therapy?
Radiation Therapy is a Cancer treatment option. More than half of Cancer patients are treated with Radiation Therapy. Treatment advances have made Radiation Therapy safer and more precise than ever.
Radiation treatments have been used to treat Cancer for more than a hundred years. Radiotherapy is another word for Radiation Therapy. Your Cancer may be treated using Radiotherapy alone or may be combined with other treatments including medication, surgery, and chemotherapy.
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation Therapy is the focused treatment of Cancer cells using radiation, like x-rays and electrons. The word Radiation means waves of energy. The word Therapy means treatment that heals or lessens. The phrase Radiation Therapy means the healing treatment of Cancer using ionizing energy.
Radiation treatments may be given in two general ways; they are, external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy (pronounced Brake-E-Therapy). External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is the precisely targeted treatment of Cancer cells using focused radiation from outside the body. Brachytherapy is the precisely targeted treatment of Cancer by placing a focused source of radiation inside or near Cancer cells.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is the name given to diseases that occur when the body’s cells begin to grow out of control and spread into surrounding tissues.
Our normal human cells grow as well as divide to form new cells, as we need them. When our cells grow old, they die, and new cells replace them.
Cancer disrupts normal human cell growth when old as well as abnormal cells survive instead of passing away. These old and abnormal cells grow without stopping. Abnormal Cancer cells can spread. Many Cancers form masses of tissue or solid tumors.
What causes Cancer?
Cancer is a genetic disease. This means that Cancer changes the way that normal cells function allowing abnormal cells to survive, grow, and spread. The abnormal growth of tissue is also referred to as a tumor. Cancer can be inherited from our parents. Cancer can also be caused by many other factors including obesity and tobacco smoke among others.
Does Cancer spread?
Cancer may spread from the place it first starts. The term malignant means that Cancer cells that started out in one part of the body have spread to nearby or distant locations. The transportation of Cancer from one area to another in the body is called metastasis.
The term benign refers to abnormal cell growth or Cancers that do not spread and are not threatening or dangerous. It’s important to note that some body tissue changes are not Cancer.
What are my Cancer treatment options?
Your individual Cancer treatment options will depend on the size, location, and type of your Cancer. Your unique situation will indicate what kind of Oncology treatment you will receive, how much, and in which order or sequence.
The word Oncology means the study of Cancer with the aim of preventing, identifying, and treating Cancer. Most Cancer treatment options involve some combination of Surgery, Chemotherapy, and Radiation. If you need Cancer treatment, your primary doctor will refer you to an Oncology treatment team of doctors. Your Oncology treatment team may consist of three people; namely, a Radiation Oncologist, a Medical Oncologist, as well as an Oncology Surgeon.
When Cancer is treated using Surgery it’s called Surgical Oncology. Surgery is the cutting open of the body to remove all or some parts of any Cancer found.
When Cancer is treated using Chemotherapy it’s called Medical Oncology. Chemotherapy is the treatment of Cancer using drugs that shrink and kill Cancer cells.
When Cancer is treated with Radiation it’s called Radiation Oncology. Radiation Therapy is the targeted treatment of Cancer using ionizing Radiation.
Speak with your Oncology treatment team; your Oncology Surgeon, your Medical Oncologist, as well as your Radiation Oncologist, to better understand all your treatment options. Find out what evidence-based. treatments are available to improve your chances for disease-free survival. Listen to your doctors for an agreement on your personal Cancer care plan.
The appropriate treatment for you depends on the location, size, and type of Cancer you have. Your individual Cancer care plan may involve some combination of Radiation, Chemotherapy, and Surgery. Try and understand what treatment is proposed and in what order or sequence.
You may want to share your thoughts & feelings on what treatments are being proposed with trusted people close to you. Discussing your treatment options several times is normal. After collecting options, you will be ready to choose a Cancer care plan.
We respectfully acknowledge that any decision you make may also depend in part on your unique: location, work, personal, family, community, national, social, cultural, spiritual, as well as economic situation.
Whatever you decide, we wish you good health, comfort, and happiness.
What is the goal of Radiation Therapy?
The overall objective of Radiation treatment is to return people to normal health by killing or reducing Cancer cells. The intent of individual treatment is either Curative or Palliative. Curative treatment is intended to make a Cancer patient healthy again. While Palliative treatment is intended to relieve a person’s pain or symptoms.
How does Radiation Therapy work?
Radiation Therapy works by focusing treatment on Cancer while minimizing Radiation exposure to normal tissues. Radiation treatments work by disrupting the ability of Cancer cells to grow and survive. The ability for old and abnormal Cancer cells to grow out of control and spread into surrounding tissues is slowed and then stopped by Radiation Therapy. In contrast, normal cells that are incidentally exposed to Radiation Therapy are capable of recovery by repairing themselves over time.
Radiation Therapy treatments work to:
What can I expect when having Radiation Therapy?
Radiation Therapy treatment include the following steps; namely, initial consultation, informed consent, CT simulation, tattoos, immobilization devices, treatment planning, initial setup, daily treatments, radiation side-effects, on treatment visits, end of treatment, and follow-up care.
Step 2. Before your Radiation Therapy treatment
In Step 2. Learning about Radiation Therapy treatment, you’ll get simple answers to the following frequently asked questions:
Before your Radiation Therapy treatmentTell me about my initial Radiation Therapy consultation
Tell me about my initial Radiation Therapy consultation?
When Radiation Therapy is being considered as part of your treatment plan, an appointment with a Radiation Oncologist is made. Your first appointment with a Radiation Oncologist is called an initial consultation. A Radiation Oncologist is a doctor who specializes in using ionizing Radiation; like x-rays and electrons, to treat Cancer.
Please bring all your medical records to your appointment, so they can be reviewed by your Radiation Oncologist. Your medical records may include: lab tests, imaging studies (for examples: X-rays, CT scan, MRI scan, PET scan, and Ultrasound), operative reports and any other medical tests.
During your initial consultation appointment, your Radiation Oncologist will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical, social, and family history. Your Radiation Oncologist will also review your lab tests & imaging studies to establish or confirm your Cancer diagnosis. The medical term diagnosis means to examine signs of your health and identify the presence of disease.
Your Radiation Oncologist may discuss your diagnosis with other members of your Oncology treatment team (for example your Medical Oncologist and Oncology Surgeon) to coordinate your Cancer treatment. Recall that more than half of Cancer patients are treated with Radiation Therapy and recent advances have made Radiation Therapy safer and more precise than ever.
The purpose of your Radiation Therapy initial consultation is to discuss the role that Radiation Therapy may play in your overall Cancer care plan. Note that you will not receive a Radiation treatment during your initial consultation. Your Radiation Oncologist will explain what kind of Radiation; either external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) or brachytherapy (pronounced Brake-E-Therapy) you will receive and how you will receive your Radiation treatments. If Radiation Therapy is not being recommended, your doctor will also discuss the reasons for this.
Your initial Radiation Therapy consultation is also an opportunity for you to express concerns and ask any questions that you may have. Talk with your Oncology team to better understand your health & well-being. Reflect on these conversations and listen for agreement on a treatment course of action.
What questions should I ask my Oncology doctors?
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When you first learn that you have Cancer you may be shocked and overwhelmed. Learning about your Cancer as well as what you can expect can ease your mind.
You will hear a lot of information when you meet your healthcare providers. So, think ahead about what you want to know. Get ready and be prepared.
Below you will find a partial list of some questions to consider asking. There are three groups of questions to consider asking. Below are some diagnosis questions, treatment questions, and follow-up care questions. The word diagnosis means that your doctor will identify the Cancer you have based on your symptoms, medical history, lab tests as well as imaging studies.
Don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand. Be deliberate - as you learn about your Cancer and treatment options. If you are reading this, you may be the kind of person who wants to do some independent research on treatment approaches. We suggest that you speak with your doctors and ask for specific learning resources and treatment advice customized for you.
Find out about what evidence-based treatments are available to improve your chances of disease-free survival. The appropriate treatment for you depends not only on the type of Cancer you have but also on the Cancer’s location and size. Your personal treatment plan could involve some combination of Radiation Therapy, Chemotherapy, and Surgery. Learn about what overall treatment plan is proposed and the order or sequence of individual treatments.
Before you leave consider asking an open-ended question. For example, is there else you want to tell me about my Cancer or Have I forgotten to ask you a common question? After gathering information, you will be ready to decide about your overall treatment plan.
Follow-Up Care Questions
Whatever you learn about your Cancer, we wish you good health, comfort, and happiness.
What is informed consent for Radiation Therapy?
The word informed means that you have the necessary information to understand your Cancer diagnosis. The word consent means that you give written permission to your Radiation Oncologist for your Radiation Therapy treatment.
Your informed consent is usually discussed during your initial consult appointment. Consider going to your initial consult appointment with a trusted friend or family member as they may be able to help you ask questions and understand your situation.
Informed consent has several parts. To begin, your doctor will
evaluate your ability to understand the information offered. Your Radiation Oncologist should provide you with
It’s normal to learn about your diagnosis and listen to explanations. You will have enough time to express concerns, ask questions, and fully understand your proposed Radiation Therapy treatment. Before you sign your consent form, you need to be comfortable with the explanations you receive. Even after you have signed the informed consent your Radiation Oncologist is always available to answer questions and share more information. You also have the right to withdraw your consent at any time and for any reason.
Whatever you decide, we wish you happiness, comfort, and good health.
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Dictionary of Cancer Terms
Need help understanding a word? Here is an electronic resource that gives meaning to Cancer terms and their usage.