Frequently Asked Questions

You should not hesitate to ask any question at any time. We have included answers to some of the more frequently asked questions:

Q How does radiation therapy work?

The purpose of radiation therapy is to kill cancer cells. Radiation affects all rapidly dividing cells, both normal and abnormal. Treatment is designed to maximize the radiation dose to tumor cells while minimizing harmful effects to normal tissue. Normal cells have a greater ability to repair themselves than do cancer cells. Because it is impossible to shield all normal tissue, some side effects may occur. Your doctor and nurse will go over the specific side effects with you.

Q Am I radioactive?

No, you are not radioactive and you will not be a danger to anyone during or after your course of radiation therapy

Q What happens if I miss a treatment?

It is important for you to receive each scheduled radiation treatment. If for some reason you need to miss a scheduled appointment, you should notify your radiation therapist or nurse. On occasion, your radiation oncologist may need to order a rest from treatments to allow normal tissue to heal.

Q Will I feel the radiation?

Similar to having a routine x-ray there is no sensation from the radiation.

Q Will I need x-rays or blood work during treatment?

Blood tests may be done to check your blood counts. Your doctor may also order other diagnostic tests or scans throughout your course of therapy depending on your specific problem.

Q Will I lose my hair?

You will lose hair only in the area that is receiving radiation therapy The hair on your head will not be affected unless you are receiving therapy to your head. This loss usually is not permanent. Be sure to ask your primary nurse or doctor any additional questions about hair loss.

Q Will my skin be burned?

Skin reactions are a common side effect of radiation therapy. The skin within the treatment area may look and feel like a sunburn. You may experience dryness, irritation, tanning or peeling. These conditions are temporary and heal after treatments are completed. Your nurse will review with you how to care for your skin during and after your course of radiation treatments.

Q Will I feel tired?

You may tire easily during your course of radiation therapy and need to rest more often. The degree of fatigue varies widely from patient to patient and may persist for a few weeks after completion of treatment. If you have questions, ask your nurse or doctor.

Q How do I arrange for follow-up care?

Your radiation oncologist will determine what follow-up visits are necessary. The doctor who referred you to the radiation oncologist will receive a complete report of your treatment. He or she may also wish to see you in a follow-up visit.

Q What services are available at the hospital?

Social workers are available to provide emotional support and counseling. The social service department can also help arrange lodging, transportation and home or community services. If you are interested in patient support groups, ask your nurse or social worker for information. Nutritional support services are also available. A registered dietitian can be scheduled to meet with you and or your family to discuss any nutritional concerns you may have.

Q What type of transportation is available?

Most patients are able to get to daily treatments on their own. If you are not feeling well, you may wish to ask a family member, friend or neighbor to take you to and from treatment. Some communities provide transportation for eligible residents, and some chapters of the American Cancer Society have volunteers who transport patients to and from treatments. Be sure to let your primary nurse know if you are having transportation problems.

Q What community resources are available for people with cancer?

•American Cancer Society: see your telephone book for local chapters •Cancer Information Service: call 1-800-4-CANCER •National Cancer Institute, Physician Data Query (PDQ): call (301)496-4000

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