Radiation therapy using linear accelerator technology continues to offer a key element in the treatment of numerous cancers and conditions. It is crucial to note that over half of all cancer patients will receives some form of radiation therapy treatment during the course of cancer treatment. There are a number of steps that are taken to ensure patients are treated safely and as effectively as possible while receiving radiation using LINAC equipment.
One of the first steps that will be taken if your physician believes radiation therapy is to be a part of your treatment plan you will meet with a trained, professional radiation oncologist. A radiation oncologist is an expert that specializes in the treatment of cancer and other conditions requiring radiation. During this first official visit patients should expect the following:
The radiation oncologist will first meet with you, the patient, to go through your entire current and past medical history. Next the oncologist will want to discuss the family's medical history. It is important to note any history of cancer within your family. Imaging results that were taken recently will be evaluated by the oncologist while they also do a complete physical examination. After this is complete the physician will assess the need for radiation therapy along with the outcome that can be expected after treatment. The radiation oncologist will talk to the patient and their family about the benefits and risks associated with the radiation therapy option using LINAC equipment. Finally you, the patient, will be able to ask questions that they have. This is all done during the consultation phase of treating cancer with linear accelerator machines that specialize in radiation therapy treatments.
In order to ensure that your treatment is both safe and effective the treatment has to target the exact location of the cancerous tumor verse the healthy organs and tissue. During simulation the patient is required to lie still in the same exact position they will be in during treatment and undergo CT, computed tomography, or other imaging technologies to determine where the tumor lies. At this point they may choose to mark the patient's body to help with the accuracy of treatment. A custom device is created for immobilization such as facial masks, head rests and form fitted body molds to help keep the body in the same position throughout the entire radiation treatment session. To protect the tissue and organs that are healthy blocks and shields are created. A tool such as the multi-leaf collimator is used to shape radiation beams to target the cancerous tumor.
In the next installment we will continue to look deeper into planning, dose calculations, treatment, follow up after radiation treatment therapy and more.
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