External beam radiation is a common type of cancer treatment. It is used for a wide variety of cancers with the goal to kill the cancer cells while harming healthy cells as little as possible. You'll undergo multiple treatment sessions at an outpatient clinic or hospital. Here's a quick overview of what you can expect.
The First Step Is The Preparation Phase
Your medical team examines your records and imaging scans to determine the exact place to direct the radiation beam. Then, the location is marked on your skin with a tattoo or ink so the same spot can be targeted precisely each time. You may also have a mold or cast made for the area of your body that will be treated. The mold is put on before the treatment starts so you are immobilized during the process. This prevents accidental movement that would cause the radiation beam to miss its mark and hit healthy tissues.
Treatments Are Five Days A Week
Radiation treatments are usually given Monday through Friday. You'll go to the clinic daily for a treatment session and then you can return home or go back to work. Depending on the type of cancer you have and its size and location, you may need to take treatments for a couple of months or more. Sometimes the treatments are stopped for a few weeks to allow you to recover and then they're restarted.
Positioning Is The Time-Consuming Part Of Treatment
The actual radiation treatment only takes a few minutes. However, getting you positioned properly and adjusting the machine takes some time because the beam has to be precise to avoid damaging healthy tissue. Once treatment begins, the computerized machine moves on its own to target the cancer cells from the angles your doctor determined are best. Once the treatment is over, the radiation is gone, so you don't have to worry about exposing your kids or others to radiation when you leave the clinic.
Fatigue Is A Common Side Effect
Although you may be able to continue working throughout the treatment period, you will probably feel fatigued after your treatments. You'll want to spend your treatment window getting as much rest as possible so you can keep up your strength to do the things that are most important. You may also have skin irritation and soreness in the area of the treatment.
Follow your doctor's recommendation for the proper skin products to use while undergoing radiation treatments and make sure they are not on your skin before you go for your daily treatment. Your skin may be sore too. You may feel like you have a sunburn, so avoid exposing the area to the sun if at all possible in order to reduce discomfort.
Undergoing radiation treatments may seem like a frightening ordeal, but you can talk to the medical team the entire time. There will be at least one person monitoring you throughout the procedure. He or she will be in another room to be protected from radiation therapy, but you can communicate by voice the entire time if it makes you more comfortable.
As an elderly care worker, I have witnessed the deaths of many individuals. I have seen family members become angry, sad, and completely silent at the end. I have also seen individuals refuse to see family members out of denial. People deal with death in different ways, and the strong emotions are often unfamiliar and scary. If you have a parent or grandparent who is elderly, then I want to share with you what I know about end of life care and dying process. We are a society that does not talk about death, and this can cause great pain when a family member dies. Learn about the process and find out how to deal with your own emotions and how to love your family members at the end. If there is only a small amount of time left, then I want you to cherish the final moments.