Whether you have endometrial cancer or uterine sarcoma, what happens during external radiation is basically the same. Where you get the radiation and its dose depend on the type of tumor. You can get external radiation as an outpatient at a hospital or a clinic. This type of radiation may come from a machine called a linear accelerator.
A special doctor called a radiation oncologist decides where you need radiation and how much you need. Then a specialist called a radiation therapist gives you the radiation.
Before your first radiation treatment, you’ll have an appointment to plan exactly where on your body the radiation beam needs to be directed. This process is called simulation. The appointment may take up to two hours. Here’s what you can expect to happen during it.
You’ll lie still on a table while the radiation therapist uses a machine to mark your treatment field. This field may also be called your port. The field is the exact area on your body where the radiation will be aimed. You may have more than one treatment field if you have cancer in more than one place. The therapist will mark your skin with tiny dots of colored permanent ink or tattoos so that the radiation will be aimed at the same place each time.
You may have imaging scans, such as CT scans. These help your radiation therapy team find out exactly where your tumor is so that they can aim the radiation.
You may have body molds made. A body mold helps keep you from moving during the treatment.
On the days you get radiation, you’ll lie on a table while the machine is placed over you. You may have to wear a hospital gown. The experience is a lot like getting an X-ray, only it lasts longer. The whole process lasts about 15 to 30 minutes, with about one to five minutes spent actually getting the radiation. A radiation therapist may use special shields to cover parts of your body that don’t need to get the radiation. Or the machine itself may have built-in shields to protect you. The therapist will line up the machine exactly with the areas that were marked during the simulation.
The therapist will leave the room to turn on the machine. You will be able to talk to the therapist over an intercom. You can’t feel radiation. It is painless. You may hear whirring or clicking noises.
You may get radiation treatments every day for five days in a row for about four to six weeks.
You will not be radioactive afterward, so don’t worry about that.
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