External Beam Radiation Therapy
External beam radiation therapy is the most widely used type of radiation therapy. It is delivered by a machine called a Linear Accelerator (Linac) , that produces high-energy X-rays directed at the tumour.
The following steps are similar for: Conformal Radiotherapy (CRT), Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) and Volumetric Modulated Arc Radiotherapy (VMAT).
Step 1: Initial consultation
Before you proceed for treatment your radiation oncologist will explain the process to you, and answer any questions you may have. Discussion will also take place with regards to treatment options and any potential short or long term side effects. An examination may be required at this appointment, along with review of any relevant X-rays, scan and test results, so please bring them along if you have them.
Step 2: Simulation CT scan
This CT simulation scan, whilst similar to other scans you may have had, is specifically setup to record all the necessary images, body shape and position details needed to ensure that daily treatments can be delivered accurately throughout your treatment course.
The CT scan will be performed by a radiation therapists and then all required details and measurements relating to your position will be recorded and stored on file.
In most cases tiny reference dots are tattooed on the skin for reproducibility of your treatment setup. These are hardly noticeable and will only be completed with your consent. If a tattoo isn’t suitable (i.e. face and neck), we will use a mask or other references.
Step 3: Treatment planning
You don’t need to be present for this step. Information from your CT scan is used by your radiation oncologist and the radiation therapists to develop an accurate and customised treatment plan. Every plan is unique and tailored to the specific requirements of each patient. Once the treatment plan has been completed, approved by your radiation oncologist and had all required checks completed, your treatment is ready to commence.
Step 4: Treatment
You will be positioned on the treatment couch in exactly the same way you were for your simulation CT scan and each session will take between 10 and 20 minutes.
The radiation therapists will leave the room, but will monitor you closely on closed circuit TV and audio intercom. During your treatment the radiation therapists will move both the treatment machine and the couch to precise required positions. The machine will make a noise during treatment that is like a buzzing, whirring sound.
The treatment itself is PAINLESS, just like having an X-ray taken.
Most treatments take place daily (Monday to Friday) over a period of 5-8 weeks.
We encourage you to bring along a family member or friend and your favourite music to listen to.
Every week throughout your treatment you will be reviewed by your radiation oncologist. This is to check your progress and to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. You may also have other appointments with allied health professionals (such as dieticians, physiotherapists, etc.).
Step 5: Follow up consultation
An appointment will be made for you to see your Radiation Oncologist after you have finished all your treatments. The effectiveness of your external beam radiotherapy treatment will be evaluated over time because it may take weeks to months before the full benefit of the treatment is assessable. Often imaging and diagnostic tests are required prior to this appointment and you will be provided with details if needed.