This type of radiation usually comes from a machine called a linear accelerator. Many times, the machine is linked to computers to precisely control the radiation. This helps limit damage to healthy tissue.
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 2 hours. The person who gives you the radiation is a radiation therapist. Here’s what you can expect to happen during simulation.
You’ll lie still on a table while a radiation therapist uses a machine to define your treatment fields. These are also called treatment ports. The field is the exact spot 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 tattoos so that the radiation will be aimed at the exact same place each time.
You may also have imaging scans, such as CT scans, to help doctors know the exact location of your tumor to better aim the radiation.
You may need to have a plastic mold of your body made to help you lie still during the treatment.
You can receive external beam radiation treatment (EBRT) as an outpatient. That means you may have it at a hospital or a clinic, but you don’t have to stay the night.
Usually you’ll get treatment 5 days a week, excluding the weekends. The treatment will continue for up to 12 weeks, depending on the dose of EBRT you get and how your body responds to it.
You lie on a table while the machine is placed over you. You may get radiation from one or more directions. The experience is much like that of getting an X-ray, only it lasts longer. The radiation therapist will leave the room while you get the radiation, but you will be able to talk with them through an intercom. It takes up to 30 minutes for the whole process.
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