Questions & Answers

Q: What is radiation therapy?

A: Radiation therapy is a medical procedure in which high-energy x-rays are used to gradually kill cancer cells so that they are unable to grow, multiply, and spread. Radiation changes the genetic material (DNA) in cancer cells. When these cells try to reproduce, they die. Because that step does not happen right away in all cells, radiation therapy benefits continue even after the treatments have ended.

Q: Is Advanced ROS part of Nyack Hospital?

A: Advanced ROS is an independently owned and operated facility offering outpatient radiation therapy. Our location within Nyack Hospital’s Union State Bank Cancer Care Center can facilitate access to other cancer-related services for some patients. Services like radiology, nuclear medicine, and a full range of cancer support services are just a hallway away, if needed on an individual basis.

Q: What is the difference between radiation therapy and chemotherapy?

A: Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are two different modalities of cancer treatment.
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells with high energy x-rays produced by a machine or by implanted radioactive material. It affects only the cancer cells in the treated areas of the body and side effects are usually limited to that area. A Radiation Oncologist provides radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs delivered directly into the bloodstream that kill cancer by damaging cancer cell enzyme systems or reproductive mechanisms. It can affect cancer cells almost anywhere they exist in the body, and side effects from chemotherapy are systemic throughout the body. A Medical Oncologist provides chemotherapy treatment.

Q: Can’t radiation kill healthy cells, too?

A: Yes, but most healthy cells can recover from the effects of radiation and function properly. Cancer cells have an abnormally rapid growth cycle and radiation only affects cells that are actively growing. Because the growth cycle of healthy cells is much slower than that of cancer cells, normal tissues have more time to recover from the radiation. The use of advanced equipment and an individualized treatment plan helps to aim the radiation beams very precisely at the tumor while sparing the healthy tissue around it.

Q: Will radiation therapy make me radioactive?

A: External radiation therapy that is delivered from a machine outside the body will not make the patient radioactive. Radiation is not “stored” in the body, and patients do not need to avoid being around other people because of the treatment.

Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy) that involves placing radioactive sources into or near the organ affected by cancer will not make a patient permanently radioactive. Some brachytherapy patients are treated in a protected room where the radiation source is removed at the end of each treatment. If a permanent implant procedure is used, as in prostate seed brachytherapy, your body may give off a small amount of radiation for a short time after treatment.

Q: How many treatments will I receive and how long does the whole process last?

A: Each treatment plan is highly individualized, so your treatment schedule will depend on your specific plan. Treatment is usually given in small doses so that the body can better tolerate the effects of the total amount of radiation needed to treat the cancer. Most patients receiving external radiation therapy are treated once a day, five days a week, for two to eight weeks. Treatment appointments may last from 15 to 30 minutes but the actual treatment time is only a few minutes.

Q: Will I be able to get my treatments at the same time every day?

A: We always try to schedule your treatments at the same time every day. Initially, you may have to come at a time that may not be the most convenient for you, but your radiation therapist will try to schedule regular appointments at a more convenient time as more time slots become available.

Q: What do I have to do during treatment? Will I feel anything?

A: All you have to do is lie still on the treatment table and relax. You will not feel anything at all during treatment.

Q: What side effects might I have, and how long will they last?

A: Radiation therapy only affects the cells in the area of the body being treated, so potential side effects are usually limited to that area. Most side effects are mild and go away a few weeks after treatment has ended. Different patients react very differently to treatment. Some patients feel tired after treatment, but some don’t. A minor skin reaction is fairly common. The more sophisticated the treatment techniques and technology being used, the milder will be the side effects. Your doctor will review with you in detail any potential side effects you may experience for your unique situation. For more information about what to expect in the way of side effects, listed by part of the body being treated, click here.