Many cancer patients share the same questions and concerns. Below is a list of questions and answers we’ve compiled based on the subjects that matter most to our patients.
If you have a question not included on this list, please visit our Cancer Treatment Centers page for a list of locations and contact information.
What are the side effects of radiation treatment?
Compared to other cancer treatment methods, external beam radiation therapy tends to cause fewer and less severe side effects. The treatment itself is quick and painless. However, as with any cancer treatment, side effects are reported by some patients during or after treatment. These may include:
- Temporary urinary frequency
- Loss of urine control
- Discomfort or difficulty urinating
- The appearance of blood in the urine, feces or semen
In most cases, these symptoms are short-lived. Your physician will explain the likelihood of experiencing these side effects and how long they may last.
Is surgery better than radiation to treat cancer?
To date, no randomized studies have shown that surgery is more effective than external beam radiation in terms of treating cancer. The decision to undergo one treatment approach over another centers around eligibility for each approach as well as the side effects of each treatment approach.
What is RapidArc treatment?
RapidArc is the most advanced form of intensity modulated external beam radiation therapy (IMRT). RapidArc therapy is delivered in a fraction of the time of other IMRT delivery systems in a highly conformal approach. During a RapidArc treatment, the linac’s gantry makes one full revolution while the radiation beam is delivered. The RapidArc treatment is significantly more targeted and precise which reduces treatment times and radiation exposure for the patient.
How many radiation treatments are required?
Most patients receive about 40 daily treatments over an eight week period. The exact number of treatments will vary depending on the type of cancer, size and scope of radiation fields, and the risk of side effects.
Are patients undergoing treatment made radioactive?
No, patients undergoing daily external beam radiation treatments are not made radioactive. There is also no radiation exposure risk to the people around you.
Will radiation treatment damage healthy cells?
While destroying and slowing the growth of cancer cells, radiation may also damage healthy cells. Healthy cells almost always recover after treatment, but in cases where cell damage is permanent, patients may experience side effects that do not improve over time. Doctors try to protect healthy cells during treatment by:
- Calculating the lowest possible effective dose of radiation.
- Delivering shorter treatments over a longer period to give healthy cells time to recover.
- Spreading out the dose of radiation, allowing healthy cells to recover while cancer cells die.
- Aiming radiation precisely at the affected area. The RapidArc system at NJU’s Cancer Treatment Centers are considered state-of-the-art in accuracy and dosage efficiency.
Does radiation treatment hurt?
The radiation treatment process is painless. However, the side effects of radiation treatment can be uncomfortable. If you experience pain during or after your treatment, please speak with a member of your care team who will recommend ways to manage or reduce your discomfort.
Can I continue working during radiation therapy?
Continuing to work or attend school during radiation therapy is an individual decision. Depending on the radiation dosage and the nature of your work, you may feel strong enough to continue working during treatment. However, you may need to manage your workload or stop working at some point as treatment progresses.
Should my diet and exercise routine change during radiation therapy?
Your body uses a lot of energy to heal during radiation therapy. It is important that you eat enough calories and protein to maintain your weight during this time. Ask your doctor or nurse if you need to maintain a special diet during radiation therapy.
Some studies indicate that regular moderate exercise may help manage the fatigue associated with radiation treatments. Discuss the type and amount of exercise that is appropriate for your condition with your NJU care team.
What’s next? Life after radiation therapy.
When radiation treatment ends, medical care will continue in the form of follow-up appointments with your radiation oncologist or nurse practitioner. During these appointments, your doctor or nurse will monitor the effectiveness of your treatment, check for cancer symptoms and late side effects, and continue to talk with you about your treatment and care.
Based on the results of your follow up appointments, your physician or nurse may recommend further testing or additional treatments. Prior to follow-up appointments, it’s a good idea to write down questions or concerns so you will remember to discuss them with your NJU care team.