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What is radiation therapy for cancer?

The use of various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. Radiation oncologists can use radiation to cure cancer, to control growth of cancer or to relieve symptoms such as pain.

How does radiation treatment for cancer work?

Radiation therapy works by damaging cells’ DNA. When the DNA is damaged the cancer cells are unable to divide and/or grow: therefore they die and are eliminated by the body. Normal cells are able to repair themselves whereas cancer cells cannot.

Is radiation therapy safe?

Yes, there have been many advances made to make sure radiation therapy is safe and effective in the more than 100 years it has been available.

Does radiation therapy hurt/will I feel anything?

Radiation therapy for cancer does not hurt and you will not feel anything. The therapist will make every effort to make you as comfortable as possible during treatment.

Will I be radioactive?

No, the linear accelerator (machine used to deliver the radiation treatment for cancer) uses electricity to create radiation and is aimed at the area being treated. It’s like a light switch – when the machine is off there is no radiation.

Will I lose my hair?

Radiation therapy for cancer will only cause hair loss in the area we are treating. For example, if we treat the chest area with hair, you will only lose the hair there.

Can I continue my normal routine and activities while getting cancer radiation therapy?

Yes. You should be able to continue everything. If you are unsure of something specific, it is best to ask the doctor or therapist first.
Most patients continue working full-time jobs through the treatments. The best philosophy is to listen to your body – if you’re tired, then rest. Getting plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water and eating a healthy balanced diet will help also.

How long does radiation therapy for cancer take and how many treatments will I need?

Usually external beam radiation treatments are delivered in a 5- to 7-week period. That may increase or decrease depending on the type and stage of your cancer. The radiation oncologist will tell you the exact number of treatments.
Treatments are given Monday-Friday; no treatments given on weekends and major holidays. Typically, you will be in the treatments room 15-20 minutes. This includes set up time, as the actual treatment is only a few minutes.

How often do I see the radiation oncologist?

You will see the doctor once a week. It is a quick 10 minute visit to go over any questions you may have and to see how you are tolerating the treatments.

Are there any side effects?

Most common side effect of radiation treatments are fatigue and skin irritation in the area being treated.  Side effects usually begin by the second or third week of treatment and last for several weeks after the last treatment. If you are having any side effects or problems, talk to the doctor or therapist to provide information on how to manage them or give a prescription or diet change.

Can someone come with me?

Friends and family are welcome to come with you to treatments but they will be asked to remain in the main waiting area during your treatments due to HIPAA regulations (privacy for other patients).

When will I get my first treatment?

In order for us to start treatments for you, you must first have a CT scan done in our office for planning purposes. After the CT is done, it could take 1-2 weeks to start treatment. When the plan is ready, a therapist will call to set your daily treatment time.

What happens if I can’t make one of my treatments?

We recommend that you do not miss any treatments but understand that there may be a time when it is unavoidable. If a treatment is missed, it will be added to the end of your treatments.

Visit us if you are a resident of Waukegan, Lindenhurst, Antioch, Grayslake, Lake Villa or Gurnee in Lake County, IL. For all your questions and concerns, call Advanced Radiation Oncology Center at 847-623-2114. For your convenience, you can use our online Request an Appointment form.