|FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS|
What is Cancer?
Cancer occurs as a result of changes in the chromosomes (DNA) of cells causing them to reproduce abnormally. These damaged cells continue to grow and multiply, resulting in tumors. Some tumors are benign, or non-cancerous while others are malignant or cancerous. Only a biopsy, or examination of a small piece of the tumor, can confirm the diagnosis of cancer.
What Causes Cancer?
Cancer can be caused by anything that damages the DNA in a cell. This includes certain chemicals, ionizing radiation, or some types of viruses. Naturally occurring mutations in the cell's chromosomes or aging of the cell may also lead to the development of a cancer. The process by which cancers may develop in a particular individual is not fully understood and appears to be quite complicated.
Is There More Than One Type Of Cancer?
There are literally hundreds of different types of cancers, and a cancer may occur in almost any organ or area of the body. These cancers all have different responses to the various types of treatments currently available. Your oncologists utilize their knowledge and years of experience to design a treatment plan that will most effectively utilize these therapies in order to treat a particular cancer.
What types of cancer treatment are currently available?
The three main treatment modalities are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Frequently, a combination of two or three treatment modalities are utilized to achieve maximum benefit for the patient. Every treatment modality has certain risks and benefits that should be considered before starting treatment. Consultation with a board certified oncologist in each specialty is highly recommended before deciding upon a paticular course of therapy.
What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy also known as radiation oncology is a method of treating cancer utilizing very high energy x-ray or electron beams. These beams of energy are aimed at the tumor site and can penetrate deeply into the body to destroy the cancer cells or can treat cancers on the surface of the skin. Radiation therapy has been used successfully for treating cancer for over 100 years! In simple terms, cancer cells are killed when they absorb a given amount of ionizing radiation. Because cancer cells are active and rapidly dividing, they are particularly susceptible to effects of radiation. By delivering a calculated amount of radiation over a specific amount of time, the malignant cells are destroyed. Healthy tissue that is irradiated has the ability to repair itself, whereas the cancer cells cannot.
Will my hair fall out?
Radiation affect only the area receiving treatment. If the scalp is in the treated field, then hair loss may occur. This hair loss may be temporary or permanent depending upon the total dose received by the patient. Hair loss will not occur if the scalp is outside the area receiving treatment.
Will I become radioactive?
Patients do not become radioactive by being exposed to radiaiton from the treatment machines (linear accelerators) or the simulator. If a procedure call for placing radioactive materials into the body (and implant) then the patient will be "radioactive" only for the time the radioactive material is in their body. As soon as it is removed, the patients body ceases to be radioactive.
What are the side effects of radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy will cause side effects only to those areas directly in the path of the beam or located in the treatment field. These side effects are specific to the area of body being treated and may vary greatly from person to person. The side effects a person may experience will also vary depending upon the dose received and the size of the field being treated.
Can my family watch the treatments?
Governmental regulations prohibit anyone who is not a patient or who has not been issued a film badge to be in a radiation control area while radiation equipment is being operated. No one under 18 years of age is allowed to be in a radiation control area unless they are being treated. Additionally, in order to protect the privacy of all of our patient, we only allow patients and staff in the treatment area during treatment hours.
Why does everyone leave the room during my treatments?
This also is a governmental regulation. We also observe the policy that staff should receive the least amount of exposure to radiation as possible in the performance of their duties.
Can I continue my regular routine or activities while undergoing radiation treatments?
Most of our patients continue with their occupations or leisure activities during radiation therapy. We do advise patients to avoid exposing treated skin areas to sunlight and to refrain from using potentially irritating chemicals on the irradiated skin sites. For example, do not use an underarm deodorant if we are treating the area around your shoulder or armpit. In general, you can do whatever you feel you are capable of doing.
How long do the treatments take?
The actual time it takes to deliver the dose of radiation is very short, usually less than a minute. However, it usually takes 5 to 10 minutes to correctly position a patient for their daily treatment. Once the treatment routine has established for a patient, they are usually treated and on their way again in about 15 minutes. The treatment planning process (simulation) and the very first treatment involve more activities and therefore require more time. Patients should allow at least an hour for the treatment planning process (simulation) and 30 minutes for their first treatment.
How many treatments will I receive?
Most patients come for treatment five days a week for a period of two to eight weeks.
Will I feel the radiation or will the treatment be painful?
No; the treatments are completely painless. The radiation is not detectable by touch, taste, sight, sound or smell. All that is required of the patient is that they hold very still while the treatment is being given.
Where can I find more answers to my questions?
Please feel free to em-mail or call our staff at the Community Cancer Center. Jessica Schulze, RN, BSN is our Director of Nursing Services and our Patient Navigator who can answer your questions. Jessica can be reached at 541-673-2267 x5120 or email: JSchulze@CCCRoseburg.org. We have also provided links to other cancer related web sites that my be helpful to you found on the Resource tab.
How often will I see my doctor while I am having radiation treatments?
You will see the doctor each week while you are under treatment. Your doctor will want to know how you are feeling an will answer any question you may have. Of course, anytime you have a question regarding your treatments or you wish to see the doctor, we encourage you to notify either the radiation therapist or nurse who will make arrangements for you to be seen.
Why are x-ray films taken periodically during the course of my treatment...what do they show?
These films are taken as part of our quality assurance program to make sure we are treating the areas we are targeting. The films do not show how the tumor may be responding to treatment.