For more information, call
Alpharetta Cancer Center
3400 Old Milton Parkway
Alpharetta, GA 30005
Phone: (770) 751-0521
Fax: (678) 566-1611
Atlanta Cancer Center
1000 Johnson Ferry Road
Atlanta, GA 30342
Phone: (404) 851-8850
Fax: (404) 851-6010
Cherokee Cancer Institute
460 Northside Cherokee Boulevard
Canton, GA 30115
Phone: (770) 721-9000
Fax: (770) 721-9001
Forsyth Cancer Center
1100 Northside Forsyth Dr.,
Cumming, GA 30041
Phone: (770) 292-7000
Fax: (770) 292-7002
Radiation kills cancer cells by destroying their ability to reproduce. Radiation also affects normal cells. Therefore, the prescribed course of radiation is given over many days / weeks, which allows your normal cells to have the necessary time to repair themselves between treatments.
You will not experience any pain or discomfort from the radiation during your treatment. You will be required to hold very still during your treatment to ensure the radiation is being delivered to the correct area. A custom immobilization device is used to assist you in maintaining the correct position during treatment.
Radiation treatments are given daily, usually Monday thru Friday. The number of treatments that are prescribed by the radiation oncologist will depend on the type and stage of your cancer. The amount of time that you will spend on the actual treatment machine will depend upon the complexity of your treatment. The majority of the time spent will be to ensure you are in the correct treatment positon before we turn on the treatment machine. The actual delivery of the radiation treatment only takes a few minutes.
When patients receive external radiation, once the treatment machine is turned off, there is no lingering radiation and you are not radioactive. However if you should receive internal radiation (brachytherapy) and radioactive sources are implanted into the disease site, low levels of radiation can be emitted from your body for a limited time following treatment. During this time, you will receive special instructions on what to do to reduce exposure to others.
Our treatment rooms and machines are very open and spacious and patients do not usually experience claustrophobia. For our rare patients who do experience claustrophobia, it is typically during the CT scan or if an immobilization mask is needed during treatment when there is a problem. Often the mask can be modified so that it is not so confining. Ativan, a medication that helps to reduce anxiety, often is given to patients that experience claustrophobia prior to treatment. Communication and visual monitoring of the patient is maintained throughout the treatment delivery in the event that the patient should experience any problems.
The actual radiation treatment will not impair your ability to drive. Most of our patients are able to drive themselves for their daily treatments and continue their normal work routine while receiving their treatments. Your radiation oncologist will speak to you in more detail regarding your unique circumstances. Individual physical limitations or medications that could impair your ability to drive should be discussed with your physician.
You or your physician’s office will contact Northside’s Radiation Oncology department to schedule your initial visit with the radiation oncologist at the Cancer Center. A patient registration packet will be emailed to you prior to your appointment, if time permits.
Registration Process: Upon your arrival to the Cancer Center you will be greeted by our administrative staff, who will ask you for a copy of your insurance card, picture identification and the completed registration packet that was provided to you. If you were not able to complete the packet at home, you will be given time to do so before you meet with the radiation oncologist.
Consultation:During the consultation visit, you will first meet with a member of our nursing staff, who will review your medical history, medications and current health issues. This information will be shared with the radiation oncologist, who will explain to you how radiation works and discuss your treatment options. The physician will discuss a proposed course of treatment (what type of radiation and how many treatments you will receive) and the potential side effects that you might experience due to your radiation treatments.
CT Simulation:If the decision is made to proceed with radiation treatments, the next step will be a CT simulation, either the same day of your consultation visit or scheduled for another day. During CT simulation, you are placed in a specific treatment position (depends on what part of the body is being treated) and CT images are obtained. The images are used by the radiation oncologist to determine the exact size and location of your treatment area.
It is very important that the position of your body during your CT scan is reproduced during each treatment. Often custom masks, body molds and other immobilization devices are used to assist in maintaining that position during treatment. Temporary skin marks are made on your body to help the radiation therapist position you correctly on the treatment machine. It will be necessary for you to maintain these marks until your first treatment appointment.
Upon completion of the CT simulation, you will be given an appointment to return to the cancer center to begin your treatment.
Treatment Planning:The treatment planning process is done without you (the patient) being present and can take several days depending on the complexity of your radiation treatment plan.
In this step the radiation oncologist will use the CT images that were obtained during your CT Simulation and work with a dosimetrist and physicist to design a computer-generated treatment plan. This involves identifying the tumor and anatomical structures that are located near the tumor or could be included in the treatment area. These structures are outlined, also known as contouring, on each of the CT images which are loaded into a special treatment planning computer. Once the contouring is complete, the treatment fields are designed. The treatment fields represent the shape of the radiation and the angle of the treatment machine in which the radiation will be delivered. The treatment plan specifies the amount of radiation to be delivered and the number of treatment sessions needed to deliver the prescribed treatment plan.
The computer-generated treatment plan is reviewed by the radiation oncologist and physicist to verify that the treatment plan is meeting the physician’s prescribed course of treatment. This review and approval of the treatment plan must be completed prior to the computer plan being used in the delivery of your radiation treatments.
Treatment:Your first day on the treatment machine is often referred as your treatment verification visit and will take more time than your daily treatment visit. Due to the amount of time needed for this visit (at least 30 minutes), patients often do not receive an actual treatment until day two.
Prior to entering the treatment room, you might be asked to change into a gown. The radiation therapist will then escort you into the treatment room and position you on the treatment couch. If an immobilization device was used during your CT simulation it will be placed on the patient at this time. The skin marks (you received during your CT simulation) and the alignment lasers will be used to place you in the correct treatment position. At this time X-ray images will be taken with the treatment machine of your treatment fields and reviewed by the radiation oncologist. These X-ray images will be compared to images created during the design of your treatment plan in order to confirm the correct area and radiation dose will be delivered during your treatment. Adjustments will be made to your skin marks as needed based on these X-ray images and will need to be maintained throughout your course of treatment. You will then be assisted off of the treatment table.
On day two and for your remaining treatment days, you will be placed on the treatment table and placed in your treatment position. The treatment machine, Linear Accelerator, has the ability to move around you and will move to the appropriate angels as design for your treatment plan, in order to deliver the radiation. Radiation is not visible so you will not see or feel anything while the machine is on. X-ray images will be taken throughout your course of treatment; the frequency of the images is determined by your radiation oncologist. These images are used to verify that your treatment is being delivered as prescribed by your treatment plan.
Weekly OTV (On Treatment Visit): During your course of treatment you will be seen weekly by a member of the nursing staff and your radiation oncologist. This is a done on a specific day each week which gives you the opportunity to ask questions and discuss any problems you might be experiencing due to your treatment.
Follow-up: On the last day of treatment you will be given an appointment to return to see your radiation oncologist so he can monitor the results of your treatment. The frequency of these follow-up appointments will be determined by your radiation oncologist.
In radiation oncology, there is a team of certified individuals that participate in your care.
Administrative staff: they assist patients in scheduling their appointments and the registration process. They gather the patient‘s medical records, which are provided to the physician and nursing staff prior to your visit. They will obtain the insurance authorization for your Radiation treatments and care.
Radiation Oncologist: a doctor who specializes in the use of radiation for treating cancer. The radiation oncologist prescribes and oversees the delivery of your radiation treatments.
Radiation Oncology Nurse: a nurse that has experience in the care of the radiation oncology patient, they assist the physician with physical exams and assess the needs of the patient. They provide patient education in regards to the treatment process and possible side effects patients might experience during and after your course of treatment.
Medical Physicist: is responsible for the over sight of the treatment equipment, safety checks are performed to ensure the equipment is functioning properly .They assist the radiation oncologists and Dosimetrist by providing input as to the design of the patient’s computerized treatment plan and check those plans for accuracy prior to the patient receiving their treatment . The physicist also performs a weekly review of each patient’s treatment record for accuracy.
CT Therapist: Assists the radiation oncologist in obtaining the CT images that will be used to create the patient’s treatment plan. They fabricate patient immobilization devices which are used during the CT scan and treatment delivery to assure the patient is maintaining the same position for each treatment as when the CT was performed.
Dosimetrist: works with the radiation oncologist and physicist in creating the patient’s computerized treatment plan. They assist the radiation oncologist to determine the best machine angles in which to deliver the treatment in order to limit the dose of radiation to normal tissues and organs.
Radiation Therapists: operate the Linear Accelerator, which is the machine that is used to deliver your daily radiation treatment. They work closely with the radiation oncologist and physicist to ensure that the patient’s treatment is delivered as prescribed by the radiation oncologist.