What to Expect as a Radiation Oncology Patient

Your initial consultation

Radiation Oncology patients are typically referred to us by their surgeon, primary care doctor, urologist, OBGYN, medical oncologist, or other treating physician. To get started, simply call us directly or ask your doctor to give us a call to set up your initial consultation. Our phone number is: 626-915-6280.

During this consultation, you will meet your team and discuss your specific type of cancer, the most effective types of radiation therapy used to treat it, the results you might expect from your cancer treatment, and what will happen to you physically as you go through treatment. After you give us permission, we can also obtain copies of all the necessary health records from your other doctors. By the time your initial consultation is over, you will be well informed about your treatment and why the radiation therapy recommended is the right choice for your particular situation. You will not receive a radiation treatment at your initial consultation.

Preparing for your consultation

Ask a friend or family member to come with you. He or she can help you prepare for your treatments, remember instructions and be there for you with emotional and practical support

Have your medical records and imaging from your regular doctor or oncologist (or ask that they be sent to us beforehand)

Do not forget your insurance card and any referral forms your insurance provider may require, as well as any co-pays. Feel free to call our office before you come at 626-915-6280. A member of our staff will figure out what you need to bring and can help you with any insurance or referral paperwork.

Bring questions! In the days before your consultation, write down any that come to mind.

Sample questions to ask

How is the radiation therapy administered?

How will I feel during cancer treatment?

What are the side effects from my particular form of radiation therapy?

What should I eat while undergoing therapy? Are there any foods I should stay away from?

What will my insurance cover? Is financial support available?

Should I continue my current medications?

How will my cancer treatment affect my other health conditions?

Will I be able to drive myself to my treatments?

CT Simulation Appointment

If it is determined that you will start radiation therapy, there are many steps in preparation for your start date. For most types of treatment, a simulation appointment will be scheduled. The purpose of this visit is to outline or map the exact area to be treated. A CT scan will be taken to verify the anatomy and assure accuracy. If needed, immobilization devices such as a face mask or a leg mold will be made at this time. Your skin will be marked with to ensure that the precise area is treated each time.

Treatment Planning

After simulation, you’ll have a few days to a few weeks to relax while your radiation oncologist creates a unique plan of treatment taking into account your diagnosis, the type of radiation machine that will be used, the amount of radiation needed and the number of treatments to be given

Radiation Treatment

The number of treatments prescribed will vary depending on your specific cancer type and its location. Your experience will be completely different from that of other patients and may differ from previous radiation treatment you may have had.

There are many different radiation therapy options, and the radiation oncologist will discuss with you the most appropriate plan. A full course of therapy may take several weeks, while other treatments may be one day or just a few days.

Treatments are given Monday – Friday for the number of visits determined during planning. Typically your treatment is scheduled for the same time each day. A licensed radiation therapist will administer your treatment.

The most common early side effects of radiation therapy are fatigue and skin changes. They can result from radiation to any treatment site. Other side effects are related to treatment of specific areas. For example, temporary or permanent hair loss may be a side effect of radiation treatment to the head. Appetite can be altered if treatment affects the mouth, stomach or intestine.

Fortunately, most side effects will go away in time. In the meantime, there are ways to reduce discomfort. If you have a side effect that is significant, the doctor may prescribe a change in your treatments or even give you a temporary break.