Radiation Oncology FAQs

What is the difference between chemotherapy and radiation therapy?

Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer using drug combinations in the form of injections or oral medication. This type of treatment is circulated throughout the entire body and prescribed by a medical oncologist. Radiation therapy uses a linear accelerator or another radiation source, and focuses on a very specific area of the body for localized treatment.

How long does a course of radiation therapy treatments usually last?

Most radiation therapy treatments are five days per week, for a specified period of one to eight weeks, depending on your individualized treatment plan.

Will I feel anything after my radiation treatment?

Many patients continue normal activities during treatment. However, depending on the area being treated side effects can include fatigue, nausea, “sun-burned” skin or diarrhea. Your physician can discuss the likely side effects and prescribe medication for some conditions. Making certain that you are taking care of your body’s needs is very important. Maintaining your weight and getting adequate fluids and rest are important goals to consider.

Will I be able to drive after my radiation therapy treatment?

Many patients are able to drive when receiving radiotherapy treatment. However, with some types of cancer, driving is not recommended due to fatigue or strong pain medication.

Should I take vitamins and/or medications while receiving treatment?

Good nutrition is important during your radiation treatments, and taking a multivitamin at this time is acceptable. Your physician will, however, need to be aware of all medication and/or herbal products that you are currently taking.

Will I feel any pain from the radiation treatment?

Typically, radiation treatment is pain-free. It is very much like having an X-ray taken. Sometimes a sunburn effect may cause the area to be tender. Keep your physician informed of any discomfort that you experience.

Is it a problem if I miss a treatment?

If you miss an appointment during your prescribed treatment, it will extend your treatment course by a day. We strongly recommend that you attempt to make all appointments as prescribed by your radiation oncologist. Keep in mind that the treatments are generally given Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.