As a newly diagnosed cancer patient, fear may be your predominant emotion for some time. That’s natural, but patients who’ve completed their treatments and now call themselves survivors want you to know that you can conquer your fears.
In fact, they say, it can be helpful in those early days simply to understand what your consultation and treatments will look like.
If you’re considering radiation therapy, a consultation with a radiation oncologist can help you to see if this treatment is right for you and give you time to ask questions about everything that’s causing you concern.
Your Initial Visit to the Oncologist for Cancer Treatment
A physician will determine your need for radiation therapy and predict its likely results. This includes, among other things, reviewing your medical problems, past surgical history, allergies and lifestyle. The physician will also do a physical examination to determine the extent of your disease and assess your general physical condition.
You can gain a lot of additional understanding of your cancer at this type of visit and knowledge is power: power to be an active and informed advocate for yourself.
Survivors tell us about the good feeling they had about their chosen practice or physician on these visits and that these positive initial impressions gave them the courage to move forward because they felt they’d been heard and would be well cared for as a result.
What Happens After Physician Review for Cancer Treatment
After reviewing your medical tests, including MRI scans, CT scans, and Positron Emission Tomography scans (PET/CT scans) and completing a detailed examination, a radiation oncologist will fully discuss the potential risks and benefits of radiation therapy with you.
Many survivors have shared that being informed of and understanding the steps involved as well as the potential side effects and outcomes helped turn unknowns and fear into recognizable and manageable events.
Plus, machines become much less overwhelming and scary when you understand their function and how they’re working to save your life.
Cancer Treatment Planning
To be most effective, radiation therapy has to be precisely aimed at the same target every time treatment is performed. The process of marking your skin and measuring your anatomy to help direct the beams of radiation safely is called 3D simulation. Our prior patients tell us the first time is weird but it becomes old hat quickly.
Your oncologist will write a prescription determining the amount of radiation to be given over a specified period of time. This also includes the technique that will be used to deliver the radiation. This decision is based on all information gathered during your exams, including reports and detailed consultations with your other doctors.
When a plan is approved for the treatment and all quality assurance tests have been done, the plan’s information is uploaded into a “record and verify” system that the therapists will use for treatment each day. This system guarantees that all parameters are being met on the treatment machine before the delivery of every dose. You’re now ready to start with treatments.
Here are some real stories from our successful patients about what their treatment looked like:
Danny’s Story – Stage IV Melanoma That Spread
Danny had a tumor on his left lung the size of a lime. A biopsy showed that it was malignant, and a result of skin cancer that he had almost four years before.
Danny had three treatments with the CyberKnife System that lasted about an hour and a half each. He barely lost any workdays during his treatment and was able to catch up on emails and phone calls every day. “I had no reaction to anything. Nothing hurt. My hair didn’t fall out. I wasn’t sick and miserable,” said Danny. “If I ever get another tumor, I’m not worried. I know exactly where to go to get it fixed.”
Donald’s Story – Brain Tumor & Prostate Cancer
Donald was one of the first patients to undergo CyberKnife treatment for an acoustic neuroma. “I had three treatments, every other day, and the only accessory I had was a mask to keep my head from moving,” he said. “I didn’t have to take any medications before, during or after treatment, and I didn’t have any side effects from the procedure.”
By March 2001, that tumor was completely eliminated. But a biopsy in 2004 showed that he had prostate cancer.
In March 2004, Donald was also one of the first prostate cancer patients who was treated with the CyberKnife System. This time, Donald underwent the CyberKnife treatment on five successive days. He reported that he felt no immediate negative effects, nor did he experience the common lasting side effects of prostate cancer treatment: impotence, incontinence, or bowel problems.
The CyberKnife treatment was successful again. “I’ve had experience with CyberKnife on two occasions, and neither time did I have pain. I didn’t require a hospital stay, and I had no lingering effects,” Donald said.
Suzanne’s Story – Nerve tumor
Suzanne also had an acoustic neuroma, which is usually a slow-growing benign tumor that can lead to facial numbness and hearing loss and can affect one’s balance.
By the time she started her CyberKnife treatments, Suzanne knew exactly what she could expect. She was impressed because the team showed her the CyberKnife System and the computers that control it. They explained in detail how it all worked and that it can detect the slightest motion of the tumor or patient and would immediately readjust to target the tumor with extreme accuracy. They also made sure that she knew what to expect during her treatment.
She had three treatments.
“I didn’t feel a thing,” Suzanne recalled. “You almost wonder if it’s really doing anything because it’s completely painless.”
The CyberKnife treatment was indeed a success. “The entire CyberKnife journey was very easy,” Suzanne said. “My quality of life never changed, and for me that was a big deal because I didn’t want my children’s lives to be different.”
More than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us at 850-610-3743, ask us a question or consult with us to get a second opinion, so you too can experience the difference.