Radiation therapy is a common treatment for cancer, and it usually takes place over the course of five to eight weeks. During this time, patients will typically receive radiation therapy every day from Monday to Friday. However, if the goal of the treatment is to relieve symptoms, then the treatment period may be shorter, lasting only two to three weeks. A newer type of radiation therapy, called proton therapy or proton beam therapy, uses particles called protons instead of x-rays to treat cancer.
This type of radiation therapy is beneficial because it only travels a certain distance, meaning that tissues behind the tumor are exposed to very little radiation. As a result, the overall dose of radiation needed is lower and the treatment period may be shorter. During radiation therapy, patients will be seen regularly by their radiation oncologist and nurse in order to track progress, assess any side effects, recommend treatments for those side effects, and address any concerns. The number of treatments needed will depend on the size, location and type of cancer, as well as the patient's general health and other medical treatments they may receive.
It is important to note that during radiation therapy, patients should avoid taking certain antioxidant vitamin supplements such as vitamins C, A, D and E. This is because these supplements can conflict with the goal of radiation therapy which is to produce free radicals that focus on cancer cells. Patients typically drive their cars to the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center for their treatments and free parking is provided during this time. Radiation therapy can be a long process but it is an important step in treating and curing cancer.