If your cancer treatment includes radiation therapy, your initial appointment at the Roy Richards, Sr. Cancer Center will consist of:
- Consultation - You will meet with your radiation oncologist, who will review all of your medical history, diagnostic tests, etc. and discuss your treatment options and expectations as well as the planned course of radiation treatment. You will receive a large amount of information on this visit, so it may be helpful to have a friend or family member accompany you to help digest the information and ask questions. It may also be helpful to write down any questions you have before you come. This initial visit usually takes about 30 minutes and includes a nursing assessment by a radiation oncology nurse. Bring all your medications, as well as any herbal supplements or vitamins, or a list with you to the first visit.
- CT Simulation - This procedure is performed on the first visit to map out the location of the tumor and the area that the radiation oncologist wants to treat with radiation. A computerized tomography (CT) machine is used to establish treatment boundaries for each patient. The CT simulation is non-invasive, and takes about 30 minutes. During the procedure, the patient must lie very still on a flat table while alignment marks are drawn on the skin with a paint marker to indicate the treatment area.
- Skin markings - The first day films are taken, colored marks will be drawn on your skin outlining the area to be treated. These marks are to remain on your skin until the first day you receive a treatment. Since these marks are not permanent, be careful not to wash them off when bathing.
The day you receive your first radiation treatment, the marks on your skin will be replaced by small tattoos. The tattoos are permanent marks. Once the treatment area is tattooed, the colored marks can be washed off.
Patients do not usually receive radiation treatment on their first visit. At the end of the simulation process, you will be given an appointment to return for your first treatment.
Treatment planning process
After your initial visit, your medical team will meet to develop a treatment plan for you. Depending on the complexity of your treatment, the plan can take anywhere from one day to one week to develop. Using the CT scan and a complex treatment planning computer, the physics team – made up of a clinical physicist, dosimetrist and radiation oncologist – determines the best method of treating each individual patient’s cancer.
As the name implies, treatments are given Monday through Friday. Each treatment generally takes about 10 minutes. The patient chooses a convenient time and will come at that same time every day. If the patient has a conflict, such as another appointment, sickness, transportation problems, etc., we can reschedule an appointment.
The physician will see each patient weekly, usually on Monday, to answer questions, evaluate side effects and check the patient’s progress. However, the nurse and the physician are available at anytime during the course of treatment.
Treatment is not given on weekends in order to allow the normal tissue to heal itself or regenerate. The center is closed on holidays as well.
Upon completion of radiation, the patient will generally be scheduled to see the radiation oncologist in two to three weeks. At that time the patient will be evaluated to make sure they have recovered from any radiation side effects. After that visit, the patient will be instructed to see the referring physician for follow-up. The referring physician may consult with the radiation oncologist again if radiation is needed in the future.
Outpatient chemotherapy and IV antibiotics are prescribed by your physician and can be administered in the outpatient infusion center located in the Roy Richards, Sr. Cancer Center.
Your patient care team
Several Tanner staff members will be involved with you as you go through your treatment process. Before treatment begins, the radiation oncologist will consult with the dosimetrist to determine the dosage of radiation.
A nurse will provide nursing care throughout the treatment as well as assist with managing side effects. Treatment will actually be administered by the radiation therapist.
To help you better understand the role of each team member, here is a definition for each position:
- Department Director – Manages the daily operations of the Cancer Center.
- Medical Dosimetrist – Develops a treatment plan that will deliver the most radiation to the tumor and the least to the surrounding normal tissue.
- Medical Radiation Physicist – Works closely with the radiation oncologist to plan the best treatment for the patient. The physicist is responsible for making sure the machines run accurately, checking the work of the dosimetrist and ensuring that the patient is receiving the radiation that the physician has prescribed.
- Patient Navigator/Advocate – Helps patients navigate through their cancer treatment and does whatever is needed to make patients feel better emotionally.
- Radiation Oncologist –Oversees and prescribes the patient’s radiation therapy treatments. This physician works closely with the medical oncologists, surgeons and other physicians to plan the best care for the cancer patient.
- Radiation Therapist – Administers daily radiation therapy treatments under the direction of the radiation oncologist. Radiation therapists also chart daily doses and monitor patients for radiation side effects.
- Registered Nurse – Provides nursing care throughout the treatment as well as assists with managing side effects.
- Tumor Registrar – Responsible for submitting Tanner’s cancer data to the state of Georgia for a state cancer database. The tumor registrar reports all diagnoses of cancer – including what type, stage at presentation, how it was treated and other information – from our service area. The state uses this information to report cancer incidence and trends for Georgia and to compare it to national cancer data.