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FAQ: Radiation Therapy and Side Effects

Can I change my appointment each week?
We prefer that once your radiation appointment time is set, you keep that time for the entire course of treatment. Please arrange outside appointments around your treatment schedule. If you must change your treatment time, please talk with your therapist several days in advance in order to accommodate your request. In addition, there may be times that we will have to change your appointment due to unexpected scheduling issues. We will give you as much notice as possible
If the physician orders radiation therapy for me, how do I schedule appointments for my radiation treatments?
To schedule an appointment, call your radiation therapist. The phone number for your treatment machine will be provided to you at your first appointment. Your radiation therapists will do their best to accommodate your scheduling needs. However, please understand that the treatment machines have a very busy schedule and you may be moved a few times before getting your choice of appointment time.
How often are my treatments delivered?
Radiation treatments are generally delivered five days per week, Monday through Friday, for two to nine weeks, depending on the tumor type and location
How long will my treatments take each day?
Each treatment (from the time you enter to the time you leave the department) takes about 15-45 minutes.
What do I do if I am unable to keep a scheduled appointment?
Please notify your therapist as soon as possible by calling your treatment machine.
How many treatments will I be having?
The number of treatments is different for each person. At the time of your first treatment your radiation therapist can usually tell you how many treatments are planned for your treatment ,or you can consult your physician.
I have a planned vacation. Can I take time off from my radiation therapy treatments? Can I miss treatments?
Radiation treatments provide the optimal outcome if delivered in succession. Breaks in treatment are not in your best interest, unless there is a family crisis or medical reason. Discuss vacation plans with your doctor early in the planning process or before your treatment begins.
Do I need to make up missed treatments?
Yes, your doctor will prescribe a definite number of treatments. If you miss a treatment, it will be added to the end of your treatment schedule.
How do I contact my doctor?
During regular business hours call: (805) 682-7300

After hours/weekends call: If you need to speak with a physician right away, call 682-7111 and the operator will page the physician on call. Otherwise, you can call our main number, (805) 682-7300, and leave a message. Your call will be returned after 8:00 a.m. the next business day. For emergency situations, call 911.
What if I have a medical question that is unrelated to my radiation therapy?
Call your primary care physician with issues, questions or concerns unrelated to your radiation therapy or cancer diagnosis. In an emergency, please report to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Will the radiation treatments make me sick? What are the side effects I can expect?
With the possible exception of fatigue, side effects from radiation generally occur in the area that is being treated. If we are treating your abdomen, then you may be nauseated. If we are treating your brain, you may lose your hair. The radiation does not affect any site other than the one being treated. Your physician will review the side effects of your treatment with you.
Will radiation therapy damage normal tissue?
Radiation therapy is designed to treat tumor cells; however adjacent normal tissue will receive some radiation. Therefore some normal tissues may be temporarily affected. These effects usually resolve themselves shortly after treatment. Rarely, delayed or chronic complications may occur. Please check with your radiation oncologist for further information.
Are you going to burn me with radiation?
Reactions to radiation vary from patient to patient and are dependent upon the site of treatment. The dose given to a certain area or depth of tissue determines surface reaction of the skin. Tumors farther from surface area, like prostate or uterus have very little skin reaction. Tumors closer to the skin surface, like the larynx (voice box) or throat, have potential for increased skin reaction.
Are there any restrictions on who I may visit, i.e., do I have to stay away from children or pregnant women?
No, patients receiving external beam radiation do not become radioactive.
Do I become radioactive after a treatment? Will I glow in the dark?
No – there will be no radioactivity in your body when you leave the treatment room.
Will I lose my hair?
Radiation has almost all of both its good and bad effects isolated to the area to which it is given. If your head is not being irradiated, you will not lose your hair.
Can I drive myself to treatments?
If you are able to drive and have not been told to stop driving, then you may continue to drive yourself. If your condition changes, and you are taking narcotics, then you may not be able to drive. Ask your physician about this.
Can I work while taking treatments?
The answer to this question depends on how you are feeling, the type of treatment you are receiving and your type of work. Although it may be necessary for some cancer patients to take a leave of absence from work, many continue working throughout their treatment and recovery. Ask your doctor about what you can expect. Just remember, each patient handles and responds to treatment and recovery differently. It is also important to openly communicate your needs with your employer so that he/she may plan in case you need to decrease your hours, schedule an absence, or have increased flexibility.

If your question wasn’t answered, please call 805-682-7300.