Frequently Asked Questions

Consult our frequently asked questions to learn more about concerns that patients and their family have before starting radiation therapy.

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Does radiation therapy hurt?

The radiation treatment itself does not hurt. The treatment table is firm and may be uncomfortable but the radiation therapists will make every effort to make you comfortable during the treament.   

Does my treatment need to be at the same time every day?

No, your treatment does not need to be at the exact time everyday. We will do our best to accommodate your existing schedule when arranging your radiation therapy appointments.

Will I be radioactive after my radiation therapy treatment?

No, you will not be radioactive after your external beam radiation therapy treatment. When the linear accelerator (machine used to deliver radiation therapy) is turned on, electricity is used to create radiation that is aimed only at the targeted site. Similar to a flashlight, when the machine is turned off, there is no more radiation. This information does NOT apply to prostate brachytherapy treatment.

How long does radiation therapy treatment last and how many treatments are needed?

Most of the time, external beam radiation therapy is delivered in daily treatments over a period of 5 to 7 weeks. The length of time may increase or decrease based on the type and stage of the cancer. Treatments are given Monday through Friday, with weekends off. Generally a patient will be in the treatment room for 15-30 minutes, with the actual treatment only lasting a few minutes.

How does radiation therapy kill cancer cells?

Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA (the molecules inside cells that carry genetic information). Radiation therapy can either damage DNA directly or create charged particles (free radicals) within the cells that damage the DNA. Cancer cells whose DNA is damaged beyond repair stop dividing or die. When the damaged cells die, they are broken down and eliminated by the body’s natural processes.

Will I lose my hair?

Radiation therapy can cause hair loss (alopecia), but only in the area being treated with radiation. For example, if you are receiving radiation therapy to your leg, you may experience hair loss in the treatment area, but you will not lose the hair on your head. If you are receiving radiation therapy to your head, you may experience some or complete hair loss on your scalp. Some patients find that their hair grows back after their treatments are finished.

How often will I see my radiation oncologist?

You will see Dr. Fram at least once a week during the course of your treatment. Generally the visit will follow your treatment and last for about 10 minutes. The doctor or nurse is also available to see you anytime you have questions or concerns.

Can I continue my regular routine/activities while undergoing radiation therapy?

Yes, you should continue with your normal activities and routines while undergoing radiation therapy. Most patients continue full-time occupations or leisure activities through the course of treatments. When you feel tired, do not overexert yourself; take time to rest when needed. Try to get plenty of sleep and maintain a healthy diet.

Can someone come to my treatments with me?

Friends or family are welcome to accompany you to your treatments.  However, those accompanying you will be asked to wait in the reception area while you are given your radiation treatment. This is for their safety as well as to protect the privacy of other patients.