Before beginning external radiation therapy, the patient will come into the cancer center for a treatment planning appointment. During that visit, the patient will meet with the radiation oncologist and other members of the team who determine exactly how to deliver the radiation beams to treat the cancer with as little impact on healthy cells as possible.
Some scans may need to be performed during, or in some cases before, this appointment. These scans will be used as a part of the treatment planning process.
Computer Tomography (CT) scanning & simulation allows our cancer specialists to design a treatment plan specifically for the patient based on the size, location, and shape of the tumor.
To start, the patient will have three-dimensional images (CT Scans) taken. These images are used with the treatment planning software that helps determine how to best deliver the radiation beams while reducing damage to surrounding areas. In some cases, it may be necessary to mark the patient’s body so that they are perfectly realigned in the correct spot for every session of radiation therapy. This would be discussed beforehand and would be only a small dot or two.
The dots will be needed throughout the entire course of radiation therapy. The radiation therapist will use them to make sure you are in exactly the same position for every treatment. The dots are about the size of a freckle and cannot be removed over the course of the several weeks when radiation therapy will be given.
Because it is absolutely critical for the success of the treatment to keep the patient still and in the same place for every treatment, there may be a need for a custom-fit immobilization aid. This device reduces the likelihood that the patient has moved to a slightly different position during treatment.
A body mold may be made of the part of the body that is being treated. This is a plastic or plaster form that keeps you from moving during treatment. It also helps make sure that you are in exactly the same position for each treatment.
If you are getting radiation to the head and neck area, you may be fitted for a mask. The mask has many air holes. It attaches to the table where you will lie for your treatments. The mask helps keep your head from moving so that you are in exactly the same position for each treatment.
Eclipse™ is a comprehensive three-dimensional treatment planning system, integrated into the radiotherapy equipment in our office. Our cancer specialists use this software, combined with the CT Scans that were already taken, or in some cases an MRI or PET Scan, to simulate an external radiation treatment plan. This software allows our team to streamline the process of treatment planning, reduce the time it takes to determine an accurate dose and makes it possible to fine tune the treatment plan before the patient is given radiation therapy.