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External Beam Radiation FAQ

External beam radiation is the most common form of radiation therapy used to treat cancer.  High energy radiation beams are directed from outside of the body into the tumor using a linear accelerator.

Will I be radioactive after treatment?

No, you will not be radioactive. It is OK to be around other people.

Will the treatments hurt?

No, you will not feel anything during your radiation treatments; they are painless.

How long will the treatments take?

The first two treatments will take between 25 to 45 minutes. Remaining treatments will take about 15 minutes. If you are receiving IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) treatments, the first two days, plan to be in the department for one hour. Subsequent daily treatments will take 30 minutes.

How many treatments will I have to take?

The total number of treatments will depend upon the type of cancer, location and stage. On average you will be treated once per day, five days a week, for two to eight weeks. Your doctor will discuss this with you in more detail.

Will my hair fall out?

The radiation treatments may cause hair loss, but only within the area being treated. Your doctor will discuss this and any other possible side effects with you.

How often will I see my doctor?

Your doctor will see you once a week to check on how you are doing during treatment. You can see the physician more frequently if you have questions or are having problems.

Who do I talk to if I have a question?

We encourage you to ask questions. You can ask any member of our staff at any time. If they cannot answer your question, they will find someone who can.

Can I take my regular medication during my radiation treatments?

Yes, in most cases. Be sure to let your doctor or nurse know what you are taking, including all prescription and over-the-counter medications. If you begin to take something new during your treatments, let us know.

Will the treatment make me tired?

Yes, you may experience some fatigue after several weeks of treatment.

What can I do to help in my treatments?
  1. Follow the instructions given to you by your healthcare team.
  2. Try to keep a positive attitude.
  3. Eat a well balanced diet (provided you have no dietary restrictions).
  4. Stay well hydrated.