Setting the scene: Radiation therapy treatment

The first day of radiation therapy treatment is naturally an anxious time. When you enter the radiation therapy department, you will be directed to the waiting area for treatment delivery.

waiting area Waiting area in radiation therapy department

When you are called for treatment, you will be asked your name and date of birth, each day before treatment begins. This is part of a safety check for patients to make sure the correct patient is being treated.

In the waiting area, you will see that there are many brightly coloured signs indicating that this is a controlled area. These signs are to prevent visitors from entering radiation therapy units when patients are being treated.

Radiation control sign Radiation control sign

You will pass the radiation therapist’s control area on your way into the treatment room.

Linear accelerator control room Linear accelerator control room

This is the area where the radiation therapists control the linear accelerator and monitor you during your treatment. You will see that there are many CCTV monitors in the console area so that the radiation therapists can check your position during treatment. There is also an intercom system where the radiation therapists can speak to you during treatment, if you wish them to do so.

You will walk down a short maze into the treatment room.

treatment room maze Treatment room maze

Radiation therapy units are designed like this because x-rays travel in straight lines. To ensure there is absolutely no radiation outside of the treatment room, mazes are used or heavy doors on the way into the treatment room (Biggs, 2001).

Treatment room: Linear Accelerator

Linear Accelerator Linear accelerator

When you enter the treatment room, the machine, which delivers the radiation therapy treatment is called the linear accelerator. It has the capability of rotating 360 degrees around you to treat from all angles. In the treatment room, you will lie in the same position as you did at your pre-treatment CT or MRI.

Many patients say that they are concerned about the couch as it is very narrow. The couch is narrow so that the linear accelerator can rotate around you at any angle, however it is very robust.

The linear accelerator can be controlled both in the treatment room by the radiation therapists and also from the control area. Do not be alarmed if the linear accelerator rotates around you when the radiation therapists are not in the treatment room; they are carefully controlling it and monitoring you from the control room.

When the linear accelerator is switched on, you will hear a buzzing noise but you will not see or feel anything.

You will be monitored each day for treatment-related side effects. If at any time, you need help to manage your side effects talk to any member of your radiation oncology team.

information and support room Information and support room

Remember that your radiation oncology team is here to provide you with information and support. Their goal is to provide you with the best care and experience through your radiation therapy journey.

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This article is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Radiation Oncology: From Diagnosis to Survivorship

Trinity College Dublin