In some cases, a single treatment may be used to help relieve pain or other symptoms related to more advanced cancers. During a treatment session, you will lie in the position determined during the radiation simulation session. During the simulation, you will lie in the same position for 1 hour or more. The exact duration depends on your radiation treatment plan.
Again, the exact duration of radiation therapy depends significantly on the characteristics of the cancer. The two side effects that most commonly affect patients receiving radiation therapy for breast cancer are fatigue and skin changes. The machines focus the radiation beam at the exact location to maximize radiation reaching the cancer, but also to limit the effect on normal tissues as little as possible. This section explains what you and your radiation therapy care team will do before starting radiation treatments.
Towards the end of radiation treatments, the radiation oncologist will discuss an individualized follow-up plan. This means that this type of radiation is often able to deliver more radiation to the tumor and, at the same time, reduce its effects on normal tissues in front of and behind the tumor. In these cases, the radiation therapy team will help decide if radiation therapy is the best option. The specific type of cancer and its characteristics are used to determine the exact frequency and duration of radiation therapy.
You can be sexually active during radiation therapy, unless your radiation oncologist tells you not to. This allows the doctor to administer a large dose of radiation to the cancer and limits the effects on nearby tissues. Radiation therapy also affects normal cells, but they can repair themselves in a way that cancer cells can't. For this treatment, the radiation machine delivers many small beams of radiation to the tumor from different angles around the body.
What happens during radiation therapy treatment depends on the type of radiation therapy you receive. During checkups, your doctor will talk to you about how you feel, monitor you to see how well the radiation has worked, and look for any signs of cancer. You may have different side effects depending on the type of cancer you have and where in your body radiation therapy is being given. For example, radiation therapy may last only a few weeks (or less) when used to relieve symptoms, because the overall dose of radiation needed is lower.
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