Once you have been referred to Radiation Oncology, you will be scheduled to meet with the radiation oncologist for an initial consultation. Typically this appointment takes 1-2 hours, depending on the nature and complexity of your cancer diagnosis.
During this office visit, the doctor will evaluate information about your past medical history, surgical history, current medications, drug allergies and lifestyle. The nurse will obtain baseline vital statistics including weight and blood pressure. Your radiation oncologist will review your medical records including diagnostic imaging such as CT or MRI, as well as current laboratory results. The doctor will discuss the benefits and risks of radiation treatment and answer any questions you may have.
At the end of your consultation, the doctor may schedule you for additional diagnostic imaging or other tests needed to fully evaluate your disease and prepare for treatment planning.
Simulation and Treatment Planning
The next step in preparing to treat your cancer is to schedule a simulation, or treatment planning session. Usually this procedure takes place a few days to weeks after you have met with the doctor and decided to initiate radiation treatment. Typically simulation is completed in less than an hour and in a single session.
During simulation the radiation therapist, under the guidance of the radiation oncologist, will place you in position on the CT simulator. Images of your anatomy are captured for the sole purpose of designing a treatment plan specific to you and your cancer. Sometimes the radiation therapist will use devices or molds to manipulate the position of your body on the table. Some devices will immobilize your body so that treatment is given precisely in the same location.
After simulation, the radiation oncologist, with the help of the dosimetrist, will use sophisticated treatment planning computers and software to design the best possible course of treatment for you. Once the planning is complete, the doctor will approve your treatment plan and write a prescription that serves as an outline of your treatment. About a week or two after you complete your simulation, you will be given a start date and time for your first radiation treatment.