The goal of external beam radiation is to aim radiation directly at your cancer. You'll get radiation only on the part of your body that has cancer tumors.
What to expect
Most of the time, you will get external beam radiation therapy as an outpatient. This means that you will have treatment at a clinic or radiation therapy center and will not have to stay in the hospital.
You will meet with your Riverside oncologist or nurse before you begin treatment. Your oncologist or nurse will discuss radiation therapy, its benefits for your situation, side effects and how to care for yourself during and after treatment. During this appointment you may undergo:
- A physical exam
- A review of your medical history
- Additional blood work
- X-rays and imaging tests to define the places in your body that will get radiation or treatment fields.
The radiation staff will put small marks on your skin to mark your treatment fields. The therapist will use these marks to make sure you are positioned correctly for the radiation beam. These marks are intended to last for your entire course of radiation treatments.
You may need a body mold fitted to keep you from moving during treatment. This will help make sure you are in the exact position during every treatment.
Depending on your treatment, you may be fitted for a mask to hold your head in place in the same way as the body mold.
You will be positioned in a large machine that directs radiation beams directly at your cancer cells. The machine doesn't touch you, but rotates around you sending the radiation into the tumor from many different directions.
Most people get external beam radiation therapy once a day, 5 days a week, Monday through Friday. Treatment lasts for 2 to 10 weeks, depending on the type of cancer you have and the goal of your treatment. The time between your first and last radiation therapy sessions is called a course of treatment.
Radiation is sometimes given in smaller doses twice a day. Although side effects may be more severe, there may be fewer late side effects.