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Radiation therapy planning is a process to decide when radiation therapy, which is the medical procedure that uses ionizing radiation to help fight malignant cells within the body, will be done and how it will be carried out. Radiation can be used by itself as a cancer treatment, but it is more commonly combined with others, such as surgery, chemotherapy and hormone therapy, to maximize the outcome. The purpose of radiation therapy is to eliminate or stop the growth of the cancer cells and to relieve the patient’s symptoms. Radiation therapy planning is the first step taken by a patient who is planning on going through this type of procedure.
The first step in radiation therapy planning is to determine the specific part or parts of the body that will be treated with it. To pinpoint the exact area that needs the treatment is referred to as the simulation process. This involves using a CT simulator that will take diagnostic quality x-rays of the entire infected area. A specialist will evaluate the x-rays and narrow down the specific location for treatments. The marked area of the skin will then be permanently outlined, which will help to ensure that the proper area is targeted. Before radiation therapy begins, a trial run will be performed as an extra measure to ensure the appropriate area is hit.
The patient will meet with their doctor to continue their radiation therapy planning. They will determine how many days a week the radiation therapy will be performed. Usually patients will receive treatment five days a week, running Monday through Friday and allowing a break on the week-ends. In certain cases, this number can be reduced to anywhere between two and four days a week. The patient will also set-up what time they will receive their radiation therapy treatments and usually this will be at the same time every day to provide consistency. The procedure will take about twenty-five minutes a session, but a patient should plan to be in the office for about one hour.
During the procedure, the doctor must also do some radiation therapy planning before they even begin the process. They must first determine precisely where the target area is and the best angle to reach it from. The doctor will also need to plan a method to ensure that the patient stays as still as possible so that the surrounding tissues are not harmed. The correct dosage of radiation must be carefully planned to keep the number of healthy cells damaged to a minimum.
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