Treatment Protocols

Treatment Protocols

You may have heard your radiation oncologist use the terms “treatment protocols” or “guidelines.” Treatment protocols are systematic methods of treating various diseases and represent recognized methods of delivering optimal care.

In the Radiation Oncology Department we have treatment protocols that are established by groups of physicians to standardize optimal care. Protocols are reviewed periodically by all physicians in Radiation Oncology and the results are compared to national norms, ensuring a high standard if care for every patient.

We maintain relationships and participate in standardized treatment protocols with nationally known academic institutions.

Occasionally, your radiation oncologist may suggest that your illness may be best managed by a particular national research protocol. As opposed to the “treatment protocol” described above, a research protocol aims to investigate a new therapy, new ways of using existing therapies, or tests one therapy against another. You will be given a written explanation of the protocol describing intended benefits and possible risks. Participation in research protocols is always voluntary.

Simulation and Treatment Planning

Because radiation can affect both normal and diseased cells in the path of the radiation beam, your radiation oncologist must plan your treatments so that all the abnormal areas are included in the radiation field, while sparing as much normal tissue as possible. This usually requires a treatment planning session called a CT simulation which identifies the exact location of the affected area. Additional imaging procedures, such as studies using radio-opaque dyes, MRIs and PET scans, may also be necessary to outline the affected areas and/or to spare normal tissues.

Once the area to be treated has been delineated, the skin over this area may be marked with small ink dots and pinpricks to serve as permanent “landmarks.” These allow the radiation therapists to direct the radiation beam precisely to the treatment area.

Depending on your individual requirements, the treatment planning session (CT simulation) may last from 30 minutes to two hours.

Following the simulation, further treatment planning and calculations are made to determine the best method of delivering the exact dose to the affected area. Additionally, special shielding devices or blocks may be custom made for use in your treatment. All this may take up to a week to complete.

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