What Happens at a Radiation Therapy Center?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A radiation therapy center provides radiation therapy to people with cancers and other conditions that may require treatment with radiation, including internal and external approaches. It may operate within a larger hospital or clinic, or as a standalone facility. The center can have a variety of amenities for cancer patients and their families. People with a cancer diagnosis who will need radiation therapy may want to do some research to find the best facility for their needs.

Radiation therapy centers treat people using iodizing radiation.
Radiation therapy centers treat people using iodizing radiation.

At a radiation therapy center, patients meet with therapists to discuss their therapy. A doctor specializing in this area of medical practice will evaluate the patient and her files to determine the correct placement, timing, and dosing of the radiation therapy. The patient can also get information about the course of therapy, including details about side effects, after care, and what to expect. This initial consultation provides an opportunity to interact with the doctor as well as nurses, technicians, and other people who may be involved in treatment.

On the day of a radiation appointment, the patient can receive treatment with devices like external beam radiation equipment, brachytherapy inserts for internal radiation treatment, and so forth. The patient may need to stay for several hours or days after therapy to allow people at the radiation therapy center to monitor the patient. In the case of patients who will be radioactive after treatment, isolation is necessary, along with checks to determine when the patient is safe to go outside.

The radiation therapy center typically has hospital rooms for patients, including isolation rooms for radioactive patients or people with very weak immune systems who could be endangered by microorganisms in the environment. Some radiation therapy centers also provide housing for families and caregivers, sometimes in a separate facility nearby. They may offer counseling for cancer patients, including group therapy with other patients as well as private sessions. The center can also evaluate patients with side effects from radiation therapy and recommend adjustments to treatment or tactics for addressing the side effects to keep the patient more comfortable.

People in need of radiation therapy should determine which centers in the area offer the type of therapy they need, as some centers have more equipment than others. They may also want to look into centers with an existing partnership with their hospitals or clinics, and should consider insurance coverage, if this will be an issue. It can also help to tour a radiation therapy center to see what it is like and meet staff, to give patients an idea of whether they will feel comfortable going there several times a week, or possibly daily, over the course of cancer treatment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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