What to Expect From Radiation Therapy

Here is a brief outline of what you can expect during treatment with radiotherapy or radiosurgery. The details of some of the steps may differ, depending on your particular case.


First Visit - Consult Day

When you enter the Albert G. & Helen Nassif Radiation Center, you will be greeted by the front desk staff. They will complete your registration process by having you review your name, birth date, address, social security number and two contact people. They will make copies of your insurance cards and photo identification.
(Approx. 15 minutes)

Next, you will visit with the nurse. The nurse will weigh you, check your blood pressure and review your personal health history. The nurse will provide educational instruction regarding your specific treatment, potential side effects of your treatment and other aspects of your radiation therapy treatments.

(Approx. 30 minutes)

After visiting with the nurse, the radiation oncologist will meet with you and your family to discuss your treatment plan and/or treatment options and complete a brief physical exam. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and decide on the proper course of treatment that is right for you.

(Approx. 1 - 1 ½ hours)  

Second Visit - Simulation

This usually happens 2-7 days after the consultation. This is a CT scan done in our department that helps us visually see the tumor and area we need to treat with radiation.

  • Let the front desk staff know you have arrived and have a seat in the waiting room.

  • A radiation therapist will come to the waiting room to get you. They will explain the simulation process and answer your questions. A family member may come with you and listen to the information. They will be asked to leave before the procedure begins.
  • Some procedures require an additional consent form. If an injection is required, an IV will be started by a trained specialist.
  • You will be positioned on the CT scanner table in your "treatment position," which may require some special positioning devices.
  • After the scan is complete, you will receive tattoo's or marks depending on the area treated. These will need to stay on for the entire course of treatment.
  •  A digital photograph of your position will be taken.
    (Approx. 1 to 1 ½ hours)

Planning Process

After the simulation (CT Scan) is completed, a TREATMENT PLAN is be created. This process involves complex calculations done by our Physics Department. Depending on the complexity of your plan, creating a plan can take anywhere from 2 to 14 days. This time is spent perfecting your treatment plan to ensure you receive the best possible radiation treatment. Once your plan is finished, we will call you to set up your first treatment appointment.


Third Visit - Treatments

On this day you will meet with your radiation therapists, these are the people who will do your daily radiation treatments. During this time, you will be aligned to your tattoos or marks made during the Simulation. Additional x-rays will be taken to ensure you are properly lined up for your treatment.
  • Radiation treatments will start this day OR the next depending on your treatment.
  • Radiation lasts between 15-30 minutes each day depending on your individual case.
  •  Most patients come five days a week Mon. - Fri. However, some cases may vary.

Weekly Visits:

Once your treatments have started, you will visit with the nurse and Radiation Doctor once per week, on a defined day. If additional information or questions are needed a nurse and/or the doctor will see you on additional days (Approx. 10 minutes after treatment). 

This is a great opportunity for your family/caregiver to visit with the doctor and ask questions. It is very important to us you receive the best possible care. To ensure this, please ask any questions you have regarding your treatment. If you have questions, please call (319) 861-6944. 

Follow-Ups

You may experience some side effects from radiotherapy. If you do, they might not begin until after several sessions because the effects of radiation treatment increase over time. Talk to your oncologist before and during treatment if you have any questions or experience discomfort. Click here to learn more about possible side effects.

After your treatment has ended, your radiation oncologist will recommend a schedule for periodic checkups to monitor the results. Typically, the first checkup is given in one to three months, and subsequent checkups are scheduled at six-month intervals, but yours may be more or less frequent, depending upon your situation.