Frequently Asked Questions Rahway Regional Cancer Center

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHAT IS RADIATION THERAPY?

A: According to Cancer.gov, radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. X-raysgamma rays, and charged particles are types of radiation used for cancer treatment.

The radiation may be delivered by a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy, also called brachytherapy).

Systemic radiation therapy uses radioactive substances, such as radioactive iodine, that travel in the blood to kill cancer cells.

About half of all cancer patients receive some type of radiation therapy sometime during the course of their treatment.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED RADIATION TREATMENTS?

A: Patients being considered for radiation therapy treatments will first require a consultation with Dr. Karp. During your consultation, Dr. Karp will discuss your medical history and perform a physical examination. All of your reports (surgical, pathology) and your imaging studies (MRI, CT scans, PET/CT, mammograms and x-rays) will be reviewed.

Dr. Karp will then determine if you qualify for radiation treatments. If you do, he will prescribe the type and amount of treatment that best suits your particular needs. You will then be scheduled for a radiation planning session.

HOW LONG IS A COURSE OF TREATMENT?

A: The number of treatments will be determined by Dr. Karp and the amount of time will depend on your unique circumstances. The total dose of radiation and the number of treatments a patient needs depend on the size and location of the cancer, the type of tumor, the patient’s general health and other factors. For each radiation therapy session, the patient is in the treatment room for about 15 to 30 minutes.

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF RADIATION TREATMENTS?

A: Effects of radiation therapy are limited to the area being treated. For example, radiation treatments to the body such as the lung, breast or abdomen will not cause hair loss. However, radiation treatment of the head will likely cause some hair loss, which may take several months to re-grow. External radiation therapy does not cause a patient’s body to become radioactive and patients do not need to avoid being with other people for fear of exposing them to radiation. Hugging, kissing, or having sexual relations will not pose a risk of radiation exposure. Most side effects that occur during radiation therapy, although sometimes unpleasant, are not serious and can be controlled with medication or diet. They usually go away within a few weeks after treatment ends Many people continue to work or maintain their normal regular lifestyle and daily activities. With newer technology and radiation treatment techniques such as IMRT, IGRT and stereotactic radiation therapy, some patients have minimal or no side effects at all.

Prior to the start of radiation treatments, your Dr. Karp will review with you in detail the treatment course and potential side effects as they pertain to you and your body.

HOW SHOULD I PREPARE FOR MY FIRST APPOINTMENT?

A: Bring with you all the medical records and test results pertaining to your case. Our oncology nurses will help you determine what these are and assist you with the process for obtaining your records, slides, and scans. At a minimum, x-rays and pathology slides (if a biopsy or surgery has already been done).

Please visit our What To Expect page for detailed information or call us at 732.382.5550 and one of our oncology nurses will be happy to go over the details with you.

WILL I FEEL THE RADIATION? WILL IT HURT?

A: No, the process itself does not hurt at all. Similar to receiving an x-ray at the dentist, you will not see or feel anything during the treatment. Over time you may develop certain side effects, depending on where you are being treated, but those can be discussed with your nurse and doctor.

ARE THERE RISKY INVOLVED WITH RADIATION THERAPY?

A: The primary risk is the irritation of normal, healthy tissue as the radiation beam passes through to the targeted cancer. Whether or not you will experience any risk or side effects depends largely on where in your body you are being treated and what dose is being given. It may also be affected by whether any surgery or chemotherapy is also necessary. Dr. Karp will discuss your particular risks with you.

WILL RADIATION THERAPY MAKE ME SICK (NAUSEA)?

A: This is not expected from radiation unless your abdomen/stomach is being treated directly. If you experience nausea, please talk to Dr. Karp.

WILL I LOSE MY HAIR?

A: Certain chemotherapy drugs may result in the widespread loss of hair, but this is not an expected side effect of radiation unless the scalp/skull region is being directly treated. Hair in the actual treated area may be affected, depending on the dose of radiation delivered.

WHO WILL ADMINISTER MY RADIATION TREATMENTS?

A: Licensed radiation therapists work with Dr. Karp to administer the daily radiation treatment under the doctor’s prescription and supervision. They maintain daily records and regularly check the treatment machines to ensure they are working properly.

CAN I HAVE SOMEONE (FAMILY, FRIENDS) WITH ME AT TREATMENTS?

A: While having someone accompany you is never a bad idea, they will need to wait in the waiting room while your actual treatment is administered.

MAY I CONTINUE MY REGULAR ROUTINE WHILE UNDERGOING RADIATION TREATMENTS?

A: In most cases you can continue your life and diet as usual. If side effects develop that could be lessened by modifying your diet or activities, we will go over those options with you.

IS MY RADIATION COVERED BY MY INSURANCE?

A. Please visit our Insurance Information page (LINK), however, we accept most forms of insurance. with appropriate authorization. You may be responsible for a portion of the balance, depending on your coverage. Our Financial Advocate, Mary Capasso, will be happy to answer your questions and handle your insurance claim.

HOW WILL I BE BILLED?

A: Please call our facility at 732.382.5550 and our Financial Advocate, Mary Capasso, will be happy to answer all your questions and concerns. She will go over all of this with you.

I HAVE NO WAY TO GET TO YOUR FACILITY, DO YOU PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION?

A. Yes, we do. Our door-to-door service is free of charge. Please call 732.382.5550 and speak with our Front Desk Receptionist, Carol. She will be happy to make the arrangements for you.

IS PARKING FREE?

A. Yes, we have a spacious lot at our facility and parking is always free.