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What is treatment planning?
Because there are so many types of radiation and many ways to deliver it, treatment planning is a very important first step for every patient who will have radiation therapy. Before radiation therapy is given, the patient’s radiation therapy team determines the amount and type of radiation the patient will receive.
If the patient will have external radiation, the radiation oncologist uses a process called simulation to define where to aim the radiation. During simulation, the patient lies very still on an examining table while the radiation therapist performs a CT scan or other imaging study to help identify the target.
The areas to receive radiation are marked with a temporary or permanent marker, tiny dots or a “tattoo” showing where the radiation should be aimed. These marks are also used to determine the exact site of the initial treatments if the patient should need radiation treatment later.
Depending on the type of radiation treatment, the radiation therapist may make body molds or other devices that keep the patient from moving during treatment. These are usually made from foam or plastic. In some cases, the therapist may use shields that cannot be penetrated by radiation to protect organs and tissues near the treatment field.
When the simulation is complete, the radiation therapy team meets to decide how much radiation is needed and how it should be delivered. The radiation oncologist works with the team to determine how to deliver the radiation in the safest and most effective manner.
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