What to Expect
Preparing for your care
You are the most important member of your own care team. We encourage you to ask questions and share any concerns with your doctors and other team members. Remember, you are your own best advocate. Learn all you can about your disease, the options for treatment and how best to nurture yourself with diet, exercise and care of your spirit during this difficult time.
The medical world is complex. Terms, equipment and places may be unfamiliar at first. You may find it helpful to bring a spouse, other family member or friend with you to appointments. We will support their active participation in your treatment and healing.
Your first medical oncology appointment
Along with all of the other items requested to bring with you, to allow us to perform a comprehensive consultation, we will need to have all pertinent x-rays, CAT scans and MRI scans available for review.
At the time that you make your appointment, the receptionist will explain how to have this information available at your visit. Please bring all of your x-rays, scans and reports with you to your appointment. After your visit, we will report promptly to your referring and family doctors.
Your first chemotherapy or other cancer treatment appointment
When making your appointment at the infusion clinic, the staff member will let you know of any pre-treatment requirements prior to your appointment. For example, you may need to get your blood drawn for laboratory tests the day before your appointment. The staff member will also let you know about how long your treatment will take so you can plan your day.
Please know that your first visit is usually longer than the rest of your visits because at that time we develop an individualized treatment plan for you. Questions are encouraged as well as bringing laptops, DVD players or books to read during your treatment.
Your first radiation oncology appointment
Your first appointment with a radiation oncologist will be a consultation. This visit will include a health history, a physical exam and a discussion of treatment recommendations and/or options. It may be necessary to schedule other diagnostic tests in order to determine the best course of treatment and/or your physical ability to start treatment.
The next scheduled appointment is usually for review and discussion of test results and/or for a simulation. This appointment may take 30 to 90 minutes. A simulation involves using either specialized CAT (CT) scan or other X-ray films to determine the treatment field position. It will be at this time that pen marks and/or tattoos will be placed on the skin so that we can position you precisely for the radiation therapy treatment. The temporary skin markings indicating treatment areas should not be washed away until you are instructed to do so. If you are marked with the permanent tattoos, do not attempt to remove them. These tattoos are a record of the location of the treatment field for your current treatment. This particular treatment field may need to be identified many months or even years in the future. If a CT scan is required either before or sometime during your treatment, it will be performed on site where we have a specialized, dedicated scanner used only for radiation treatment planning. This procedure may take 10 to 30 minutes.
Treatment usually begins between seven to 10 business days after the simulation appointment. This allows us to complete complex computerized treatment planning. Additional time may be necessary for planning the more technical forms of therapy. The number of treatments prescribed by your radiation oncologist will depend on the size, location, type and radio sensitivity of the disease or tumor, as well as your general health condition. The length of time for the treatment varies with each individual and depends on the type of treatment planned by your physician. Generally, the treatments are short in duration and painless. The radiation therapists will position you on the treatment machine and will then leave the room during the actual treatment. It will be important for you to lie very still during the treatment. You will be monitored via an audio-visual system for your safety.
Treatments are generally given daily, Monday through Friday, at approximately the same time each day. We will attempt to accommodate any requested specific time of day as best we can. Occasionally, there may be an unavoidable delay that will necessitate you waiting beyond your scheduled appointment time, and we apologize should this occur. We assure you, however, that we do make every possible attempt to keep the treatment schedule on time.