Evolving radiation treatments focus on patient experience
"Treatment comes in every combination that you can think of," she explains. "We have patients who receive chemo, then surgery, then radiation, and some who only need surgery. Every patient has a different circumstance and a different treatment plan."
Radiation treatment consists of focused X-ray therapy based on the patient's anatomy and where the cancer is located. It starts with a consultation with one of the Radiation Oncology physicians in the Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC to determine candidacy. From there, a simulation appointment is scheduled. During the simulation, or "treatment planning" appointment, personal immobilization devices are utilized.
Dr. Patel describes what happens during those initial appointments. "The devices are used to get the patient in the best position to receive treatment. We want them to be reasonably comfortable so they can lay still and be able to precisely target our treatment area."
Once the patient is in the optimal position, the Radiation Oncology team performs a CT scan, which acts as a blueprint for the patient's treatment.
Dr. Patel says, while a patient will see many medical experts during their cancer treatment, there's a lot of work being done behind the scenes to ensure patients get the most effective treatment possible. That work includes determining techniques best suited to treating the target while sparing normal tissues and making sure the radiation machines are functioning correctly.
"We're all working together, evaluating the plans, and making sure all the calculations make sense," Dr. Patel says.
The way radiation is being used in cancer treatment is an evolving practice, explains Dr. Patel, with improvements in technology helping to pinpoint details and specificity of treatment.
"We're doing things now we weren't doing even five years ago, specifically treating more focused areas, and often in fewer numbers of treatments," Dr. Patel says.
She adds that there is an increasing emphasis placed on the patient's experience and quality of life after treatment.
"In the past, treatment was more aggressive, always doing more to fight the cancer." Now, she says, the focus is on giving effective treatments while trying to minimize side effects.
A cancer diagnosis can lead to many treatment paths on the road to recovery, and Dr. Patel says it's important to have people you trust by your side the entire time.
"Treatment recommendations vary greatly from person to person, and there are so many individual factors that go into decision making. Find a team you feel comfortable with, and get information from an expert," Dr. Patel says.
Visit the webpage for the Radiation Oncology program in the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC for more information.