Frequently Asked Questions About Radiation Cancer Treatment

Learn more about radiation for cancer and what you can expect during treatment.

Does Radiation Hurt?

No, radiation doesn't hurt.

You may be a little uncomfortable while lying on the table if you're in an awkward position.

If you feel any pain or discomfort, please tell your radiation therapist.

What Are the Side Effects Radiation Treatment for Cancer?

In most cases, side effects will be at the treatment site.

Possible radiation side effects include:

  • Red, itching, and peeling skin.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue.
  • Hair loss.

Tell your doctor if you're having side effects. Many are treatable.

Who Will Give Me My Radiation?

Your radiation therapist will design your treatment plan, including:

  • How much radiation you will receive.
  • How many days you'll have treatment.

They will treat you and help you before, during, and after radiation treatments.

What Is a Simulation?

If radiation is part of your cancer treatment plan, you'll first have a planning session or simulation. This visit takes 1 to 3 hours.

During simulation, the radiation therapist will:

  • Place you on the treatment table.
  • Take x-rays, CT scans, and other pictures to confirm the treatment area.
  • Use the pictures to mark reference points directly on your skin. Or if you need treatment on your face, they'll mark points on a plastic face mask.

How Often Will I Get Radiation Treatments?

Most often, you'll have your daily treatments Monday through Friday so you can rest on weekends. We'll do our best to schedule these appointments around your daily routine.

Your radiation therapist will let you know of any holidays on which you won't have treatments.

Why Do Radiation Treatments Last for So Many Weeks?

It takes large doses of radiation to treat cancer. Having treatment all at one time would cause severe side effects.

On average, the course of treatment for radiation takes 5 to 7 weeks. This helps your body better tolerate the effects of treatment.

Why Do I Have to Be Alone During Treatment?

If radiation therapists stayed in the treatment room with every patient, it would expose them to dangerous levels of radiation.

Even though we're not in the room with you, we constantly check on you by intercom and video camera.

If you ever need help during your treatment, speak up. We can stop treatment and attend to your needs.