What to expect
Step 1: Initial Consultation
There will be an initial consultation with a Radiation Oncologist. During this session the doctor will discuss your treatment options and potential long and short term side effects with you.
For your convenience we have initial consultation and review clinics in Geelong, Warrnambool, Colac and Werribee.
Step 2: Simulation Session
Once a decision has been made to proceed with radiotherapy treatment, you will be contacted by phone with an appointment to come back for a CT-simulation session. This involves the Radiation Oncologist and Radiation Therapist deciding on the position you will be in for your treatment, and the making of any specialised immobilisation equipment you may need to ensure your treatment is accurate, reproducible and comfortable. During this session a CT scan will be taken (which may include the administration of IV contrast), non permanent marks will be drawn on your skin, and there will be measurements recorded. Sometimes photos are also taken. You may also be given permanent marks or tattoos on your skin which aid with the daily set-up for your treatment. If you are having treatment in the head and neck area, a mask may be made for you at this session.
The CT scan taken on this day gives us vital information on your tissue density, your shape and the position of your tumour and organs, which then allows us to tailor your treatment specifically to you.
At this session you will be given an appointment for you first treatment, and you will have a discussion with our nursing staff about how to best care for yourself whilst on treatment.
Please note: Thermoplastic Mask
If you are having radiotherapy in the head and neck region, a stabilisation mask will be made for you at the simulation session. The mask helps keep you still allowing us to deliver very precise treatment.
The mask is made of a type of thermoplastic that when warmed becomes soft and pliable. This warm mask is placed over your head and neck area and moulded to your features. The mask is allowed to cool and set while you are wearing it, where it becomes hard again and maintains its shape. Lines will be drawn on this mask in texta to help the radiotherapists set up your treatment every day. Making the mask at the simulation session takes around half an hour, and the planning CT scan is done with you wearing this mask.
You will also wear this mask every day for your treatment, which will take around 10-20 minutes.
Image: A Thermoplastic Mask.
Step 3: Planning Phase
The planning phase of your treatment then occurs without your presence. The Radiation Oncologist determines the exact area that will be treated and the total radiation dose that will be delivered. The Radiation Therapist will use a sophisticated computer system to design and calculate the exact radiation plan that will be used. Once this plan is approved by the Radiation Oncologist, a number of checks are performed by both physics staff and Senior Radiation Therapists before you start your treatment.
Step 4: First Treatment
On the first day of your treatment, present your appointment card to the reception desk and take a seat in the waiting room. A Radiation Therapist will meet with you to discuss the procedure about to take place prior to taking you into the treatment room. Once in the treatment room, you will be placed in the same position as you were when the CT-Simulation session was done. The Radiation Therapists will then leave the room and monitor you closely on closed circuit TV and audio intercom. During your treatment the Radiation Therapists will move both the treatment machine and couch to the precise positions. The machine will make a buzzing noise during treatment, but the treatment itself is painless. Treatment routinely takes approximately 10-20 minutes each day.
After your first treatment, the radiation therapists will talk to your preferred appointment times. We try to cater for all patients and their lives and we work hard to schedule your appointments so that your radiation treatment does not impact too much on your daily commitments.
Step 5: Subsequent Treatments
On subsequent treatments, please hand your appointment card to the receptionists at the front desk, and take a seat in the waiting room. Once a week you will be reviewed by your Radiation Oncologist after your daily treatment. A special appointment does not need to be made. Other allied health appointments may also occur throughout your treatment, such as visits to dieticians, speech pathologists or assessment by our nursing staff.
Step 6: Follow Up
After you have completed your course of radiation, our nursing staff remain on hand to help you manage any treatment reactions that may have occurred. A follow up appointment will also be made for you to come back and see your Radiation Oncologist. Imaging or other diagnostic tests may be required prior to this appointment, and you will be provided with details if this is necessary.