It's understandable that you and your loved ones have questions before choosing and beginning your radiation treatment. Please find some of the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about your treatment and AlignRT®. Visit our blog and resource pages for more information. Our team is here to support you in any way we can. You can always contact us directly here.
We know you have questions about your treatment journey, and Radiation Therapy Treatment in general, which is why we have compiled a list of the most common questions to aid you in your research. We hope you will find value in the answers below and welcome you to contact us with any further questions you might have about Radiation Therapy with AlignRT.
What is radiation therapy?
Radiation Therapy is a treatment used to destroy cancer cells. External Beam Radiation Therapy is delivered by a machine called a linear accelerator. The machine carefully aims high energy radiation beams at the cancer, destroying the cells.
Who gives the Radiation?
You will be under the care of a Radiation Oncologist who is responsible for your radiation treatment plan. The Radiation Therapist operates the treatment machine and will be the person that is responsible for positioning you for treatment and delivering the radiation treatment each day.
What will I see, hear or feel during the Radiation?
You will be positioned under the treatment machine, and the machine will rotate around you. You will see the machine move but it will not touch you. You will not see or feel the Radiation beam. However, you may hear a beeping, buzzing or humming sound while the machine is delivering the radiation.
Will my hair fall out?
Radiation Therapy only effects the area that is being treated. Therefore, if you are having your head treated, the hair in the area that is being treated on your head will fall out. If you are having your breast treated, you will not lose the hair on your head.
How long will the treatment take?
Treatments typically take on average between 5 and 30 minutes. This depends on the complexity of the individual treatment plan. Most of the time in the treatment room will be spent making sure you are in the correct position for treatment. The beam on time is usually less than a minute each time. You will most likely have radiation delivered from multiple different machine angles.
How many days of treatment will I need?
The number of treatments will vary depending on your individual treatment plan. Radiation Therapy is delivered over a number of treatments. Each treatment is called a fraction. It is normal to have anything from 1 to 45 fractions depending on your type of cancer. Most people have treatment once a day, Monday-Friday with a break over the weekends.
How do they know the radiation is going to the right place?
An individual treatment plan is generated for your radiation treatment. This provides all the parameters that are loaded into the treatment machine, to make sure the machine is set to deliver the correct amount of radiation each day. It will also contain instructions on to how to position you each day during treatment. The Radiation Therapist will follow these instructions when positioning you. Images may be taken prior to treatment to check that you are in exactly the same position that was planned, by comparing the machine images to those of the planning scan.
In a center that has AlignRT, a red light will shine onto your skin. The Radiation Therapists will use this to position you each day, and so skin marks and tattoos will no longer be necessary. The AlignRT system will also monitor your position during treatment.
Am I radioactive after treatment?
No you are not radioactive after the treatment with External beam Radiation Therapy.
The procedure is used often for patients with left-breast cancer, plus some other conditions, to reduce the negative side-effects of radiation. To prepare, follow the advice of your physician, which is typically to practice holding your breath for up to 20-30 seconds at a time, usually 2-8 times per practice session. This is what happens during DIBH treatments, so if you are ready for it, it will be easier for you. Also, if you are ready for DIBH, it enables the technique to be carried out more quickly, so you spend less time on the treatment table.
AlignRT® provides information to the radiation therapist to help quickly and accurately position you before treatment. AlignRT® then monitors your movement during radiation delivery. You may not even know it, but AlignRT® may have reduced the need to put equipment around you (like a closed face mask) to keep you in the correct position. Finally, AlignRT® can even pause the radiation if you move out of the intended position. All of this helps ensure that your treatment is as safe, quick and accurate as possible.
The only thing you may notice from AlignRT® is the red light shining from the camera units. The red light indicates that you are safely being monitored by AlignRT, which will provide continuous updates to the radiation therapists of your position.
AlignRT® uses thousands of reference points of your skin’s surface and can eliminate the need for tattoos and skin marks for certain cases. Ask your physician whether this may be applicable to your specific situation.
AlignRT® uses thousands of virtual points to ensure you are in the right position – versus three to five physical points with tattoos or marks. Several studies1-3 have also suggested this to be the case. Many of the centers using AlignRT® have actually performed their own comparison versus tattoos and found that AlignRT gives more accurate positioning as well as faster treatment sessions2. And remember – AlignRT® is also used throughout treatment to ensure that if you move from the optimal treatment position, the radiation can be paused.
During the treatment planning (simulation) sessions, your radiation team will find the right body position for you to be in during treatment and take an image with a CT scanner.
AlignRT® uses information from this image to monitor where you should be versus where you are. AlignRT® then provides information to the radiation therapist on how to position you for treatment such that the radiation will be delivered to the correct location. Once you are in the right position for treatment, AlignRT® monitors your surface for any movement out of the intended position, which can be linked to the treatment delivery machine to automatically pause radiation if required.
The real time monitoring from AlignRT® helps to ensure that you are positioned quickly and only treated when you are in the intended position.
You can find out where your nearest center is located using our Find a Treatment Center page. Input your city or ZIP code into our map to find convenient centers that use AlignRT® and other Vision RT technologies.
Herron E, et al. Surface guided radiation therapy as a replacement for patient marks in treatment of breast cancer. International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics 2018;102 (3):e492-e493.
Shah AP, et al. Clinical evaluation of interfractional variations for whole breast radiotherapy using 3-dimensional surface imaging. Pract Radiat Oncol 2013;3 (1):16-25.
Sueyoshi, et al Eliminating Daily Shifts, Tattoos, and Skin Marks: Streamlining Isocenter Localization With Treatment Plan Embedded Couch Values for External Beam Radiation Therapy PRO https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prro.2018.08.011