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Radiation Shielding – What to Expect at Your First Radiation Treatment

Photo by EVG photos from Pexels

Did you find yourself in an unavoidable situation where you are exposed to radiating gamma rays? Well, you need to see a doctor or chemotherapist as soon as possible for radiation treatment. Radiation treatment, also known as radiation therapy, is to treat cancer and ease cancer symptoms. When used to treat cancer, radiation therapy stops cancer or slows its growth. When treatments are used to ease symptoms, they are known as palliative treatments. Treatment methods are usually recommended by a doctor based on the stages of cancer. Sadly, radiation treatment of cancer cells can also affect healthy cells while the cancerous cells are treated. This may have short- or long-term effects, depending on the time, distance and dose of radiation exposure. To avoid exposure to cancerous radiation, the use of radiation shielding becomes important. Radiation shielding is a part is radiation protection that involves physical barriers made to protect the user from the effects of ionizing radiation.

So, for a patient undergoing radiation treatment for the first time, here are the things to expect.

Consultation: 

At the consultation stage, radiation treatment will not be received. The processes that may be undergone at consultation includes a review of medical history and MRI scan images, physical examinations, and the possible treatment options and recommendations are discussed and the best choice made based on the reports gathered.

Simulation

At this stage, the radiation oncologist defines the exact location and configuration of the treatment for your cancer or tumor. It’s at this stage the area to be treated is mapped out, and its often marked with small dots of permanent ink to ensure the radiation is directed to the right place all the time. To accomplish this, x-rays or CT scans will be taken in the radiation oncology department. You will be placed in the treatment position, and often there will be custom-built “immobilization” devices like mesh masks, headrests, or form-fit body molds to stabilize your body position the same on a day to day basis. 

Treatment Planning: A few days or even weeks will be given for you to relax while radiation oncologists design a unique treatment plan, using the CT scan images (and an MRI or PET, if needed). The aim of these is to perfectly deliver a high radiation dose to the tumor while limiting the radiation dose that may hit tissues that are normal around the tumor area. This may be a complex plan and may take several days.

Treatment. This is where the treatment plan made is executed. Radiation treatments differ from patient to patient as it is dependent on the specific cancer type and its location. The radiological oncologist will discuss the most appropriate plan with the patient. Individual treatment seasons do not last long, may take 20 minutes or so, and most of this time is used to position the patient accurately. During this time, there’s exposure of not just the patient, but also the medical personnel to radiation and therefore, Radiation shielding is needed to be used by the health worker for personal safety.

Follow-up is the final stage of radiation treatment. Here the recovery and overall health of the patient are monitored, status reports are taken and additional diagnostic tests may be done if the need arises.