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Frequently Asked Questions About Radiation Therapy at Premier Cancer Centers – Dallas, TX

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General FAQs

What are the uses of radiation for cancer?

Radiation therapy actively treats the tumor and its growth with the goal of a long-term cure. In cases where radiation therapy cannot completely eliminate the cancer, it can still be used to shrink tumors and reduce pressure, pain, and other symptoms. This is called palliative radiation therapy, which is done to improve a person's quality of life.

Is it true that radiation cannot be controlled because it's invisible?

Although radiation is invisible, Premier Cancer Centers radiation oncology team can control it using our treatment machines. Doctors have been safely and effectively treating patients with radiation therapy for more than 100 years.

Will radiation therapy cause another cancer?

Undergoing radiation therapy slightly increases the risk of developing a second cancer many years later. However, it is important to remember that, for many people, radiation therapy can eliminate the cancer, which is a benefit that far outweighs the potential risk that the treatment could cause a cancer later in life.

Does radiation therapy harm surrounding organs?

The amount of damage done to the surrounding areas of the body depends on the type and location of the radiation. For example, men with prostate cancer, who receive radiation therapy to the prostate, may experience bowel or bladder problems because these organs are all close to each other. As much as possible, the radiation is aimed precisely at the tumor and the nearby tissues to avoid harming the surrounding organs. Talk with your doctor to learn what parts of your body will be affected by the radiation therapy.

Is radiation therapy painful?

You cannot feel radiation from the machine, even during daily treatments.

Do all patients experience the same side effects of radiation therapy?

For some people, radiation therapy causes few or no side effects. For others, the side effects are more severe. The reactions often begin by the second or third week of treatment and may last for several weeks after the final radiation treatment. Your radiation therapy health care team will work with you to ease or prevent many of these side effects.

Does radiation therapy cause infertility?

Radiation therapy to the pelvic region can affect the reproductive system. For some women, permanent infertility (the inability to conceive a child or maintain a pregnancy) can occur if both ovaries receive radiation. Men receiving radiation therapy to the testes or to nearby organs, such as the prostate, will have lowered sperm counts and reduced sperm activity that affects fertility. Talk to your doctor during the consultation about your fertility risks and options.

Does radiation treatment make a person lose his or her hair?

Radiation therapy is a local treatment, meaning it only affects the area of the body where the tumor is located. People do not lose their hair from having radiation therapy, unless it targets a part of the body that grows hair, such as the scalp.

Should a person having external beam radiation therapy avoid physical contact with friends and family because of possible radioactivity?

External-beam radiation therapy does not make a person radioactive at any time. The radiation is delivered to the body, and there is no lingering radiation once the treatment machine is turned off. You do not have to avoid children and pregnant women because of radiation therapy.

Will I feel anything after my treatment?

Many patients continue with most of their normal activities during treatment — working, golfing, gardening, etc. Depending on the area being treated, however, there may be side effects including fatigue, nausea, "sun-burned" skin, or diarrhea. Your doctor will discuss the likely side effects and may prescribe medication to alleviate some conditions.

Will I be able to drive after my radiotherapy treatment?

Almost all patients are able to drive while receiving radiotherapy treatment. However, with some types of cancer, driving may NOT be recommended due to fatigue or strong pain medication. Your physician will be able to address your specific case.

Is it true radiation is always used with chemotherapy and/or surgery?

Although some types of cancer respond best to combination treatment approaches, which may include radiation plus surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy, radiation therapy alone can be an effective treatment for some cancers.

Safety FAQs

How does the team confirm delivery of the correct dose?

The Premier Cancer Centers team performs thorough quality assurance for every single plan of every patient before treatment. For patients receiving Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), the team radiates a "phantom" with radiation detectors inside to confirm that the radiation dose delivered is correct. This procedure is done before the first treatment is delivered.

How do you ensure that the radiation is being delivered to the correct area?

The radiation oncology team performs daily image guidance for IMRT and other sophisticated tests to confirm proper position before the patient receives his or her daily treatment.

What does the team do to prevent human error during the treatment?

There are always multiple radiation therapists on each machine as an added safety measure. In addition to a scheduled morning quality assurance checklists, the Premier Cancer Centers team has different people checking the same thing throughout the day to further reduce the chance of human error.

How do you assure that the equipment is functioning properly?

In addition to employing full-time, board-certified medical physicists performing daily, monthly, semi-annual, and annual Quality Assurance tests, Premier Cancer Centers has service contracts with expert engineers for the radiation equipment we use. These experts work diligently to establish and validate the functions of the equipment.

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*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.