Radiotherapy planning involves developing an approach to radiation therapy that will attack a tumor while sparing neighboring tissue. Specialists need to consider the type and location of the cancer, the patient's general medical health, and the available options in terms of the type of therapy to use. All of this information is pulled together to create a plan, usually with the assistance of a software program. Advanced software can perform all necessary computations and program equipment used in radiation therapy to make sure it is precise.
The type and position of the cancer is a key issue with radiotherapy planning, as it determines the size of the dosage and the best delivery method. Doctors need to think about how far the radiation must penetrate, and have to consider the patient's anatomy. A cancer in a sensitive location can be hard to treat with radiotherapy because the beams of radiation could damage delicate nearby organs. Doctors typically use a number of medical imaging studies to create a virtual patient they can use for planning, allowing for very precise targeting of the tumor.
General patient health is another issue with radiotherapy planning. Radiotherapy can be grueling and potentially dangerous for some patients, and the doctor must consider the patient's needs. The goal may be to actively break up the cancer, or to slow the rate of growth in a patient who cannot tolerate full radiation therapy. Health could also determine the size of the dose and the frequency of radiation sessions, as the doctor wants to strike a balance in radiotherapy planning between treating the cancer and causing complications.
Available therapies in a given facility also play a role in radiotherapy planning. It is possible to choose between external radiotherapy and brachytherapy, where devices that emit radiation are inserted into the patient. The doctor needs to determine the most appropriate form of radiation and the dosage, thinking about the patient's case and factors like how much support is available to the patient.
A team of doctors will consult while developing a radiotherapy treatment plan for a patient. They will also work with the patient to address additional concerns the patient may have. Before treatment starts, the patient meets with the team to talk about what to expect, including side effects and aftercare needs, so the patient can plan ahead for radiotherapy. Family members may also attend this meeting so they can provide the most appropriate support and care for someone going through cancer treatment.