Radiation Therapy Basics
Here I will be discussing external beam radiation therapy (not brachytherapy).
The radiation you get during treatment is just like getting a chest X-ray; you won’t feel or see anything.
A therapist will take you into a large room and set you up on the treatment table to ensure you are in the correct position for treatment.
During the treatment, a machine will move around you and deliver treatment from different angles. It is close, but does not touch you.
Treatments typically last only a few minutes. The beams go straight through you, but you cannot feel them.
The entire course of treatment is broken down into “fractions”, or daily treatments. Courses can range from a single fraction to 44 or more.
Radiation is a FOCUSED treatment, meaning the beam only goes where your doctor points it.
Because of its focused nature, almost all side effects from radiation occur right around where the beams are pointed.
Radiation side effects are also slow to appear. There is little to no day-to-day effects. They are more week-to-week changes.
Patients typically start to notice effects starting around the end of the second week. The side effects will be at their worst when treatment is finished.
The side effects will then slowly fade away. A good rule of thumb is you will be back to 80% of yourself in about 8 weeks.