Frequently Asked Questions

We understand that a cancer diagnosis can change lives, and that you and your family members will have many questions about your treatment. Below are some common questions you may have before your first appointment. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

What should I bring to my first appointment?

A copy of your complete medical record is most helpful, including pathology or lab reports and/or any prior treatment notes. You will need to bring any films of CT or MRI scans, bone scans, and X-Rays. You will also need to bring your health insurance cards, along with any necessary referrals required by your insurer.

Can a family member or friend come with me to my initial appointment?

Yes. We encourage family members or close friends to participate in the initial consult with the radiation oncologist and oncology nurse. Since we explain a lot of information to you, it may be helpful to have others there to listen. Of course, this is your decision and you are welcome to come alone. Please remember that we are always available to talk with you and review anything you may not have heard or understood at your initial consult.

After my initial consult, what happens?

Following your initial consultation with the radiation oncologist, you will be scheduled for a CT simulation appointment. During this appointment, the radiation therapist, under the direction of your radiation oncologist, will pinpoint the exact area of your body we will treat. The simulation process is highly individualized to ensure the most appropriate course of treatment for you. The simulation appointment may take up to one hour, during which you will have a CT scan. We will mark your body with tiny dots that are permanently tattooed to ensure accuracy of your treatments. You will not receive an actual radiation therapy treatment during this visit.

Brigham and Women's/Sturdy Memorial Radiation Oncology Center utilizes a Philips AcQsim that provides advanced CT simulation. Because precise, reproducible positioning is so important to the delivery of high-quality treatment, there are certain simulations for which specific equipment is utilized to help you stay in the same position for each session. This will be fashioned at simulation by the radiation therapist in conjunction with the radiation oncologist and may consist of special cushions, braces, custom-made aquaplast molds, etc.

Once the scanning is over, the radiation therapist will go over all the treatment dates that will occur.

Should someone come with me each time I have a radiation treatment?

Family and friends can be very supportive and they are always welcome to accompany you. However, it is your decision. Physically you will not be groggy or unable to function. Unless physically ill or mentally exhausted, most patients are able to drive themselves home after their appointments.

I know some patients receive radiation and chemotherapy at the same time. If I do, where will I receive my chemotherapy?

In most cases, your chemotherapy will be given in your medical oncologist’s office or at a local hospital.

How often will I see the doctor or nurse at Brigham and Women's/Sturdy Memorial Radiation Oncology Center?

You will be scheduled for weekly physician/nurse visits throughout the course of your treatment.

If I want to see or speak to the doctor or nurse other than during my appointment, how do I reach them?

You are always welcome to ask to speak with your radiation oncologist or nurse, or with your radiation therapist who is extremely experienced in radiation therapy. To reach any member of our staff, call our regular telephone number: 857-307-3700. During non-business hours, Brigham and Women's/Sturdy Memorial Radiation Oncology Center has 24-hour emergency coverage, available by calling our regular telephone number too.

Whom should I contact if I have a bad reaction or extreme discomfort?

While you are receiving treatment it is very important to contact the doctor or nurse at Brigham and Women's/Sturdy Memorial Radiation Oncology Center if you experience extreme discomfort. You should also contact your referring physician or primary care physician. This comprehensive approach to your care ensures we all work together in your best interest.

Should I call every day to confirm my appointment?

No. Once you are scheduled for treatment, your appointment time is yours and we will be here for you.

What if I miss a treatment?

You will be scheduled for a certain number of treatments based on your specific disease. It is extremely important that you receive all of your prescribed treatments. Therefore, if you miss a day it must be made up and your last day of treatment will be extended.

Will you notify me if my appointment is canceled (due to bad weather, etc.)?

Yes. This is why we ask for your work, cell, and home telephone numbers.

What role will medical physics play in my radiation therapy?

The physics staff at Brigham and Women's/Sturdy Memorial Radiation Oncology Center is made up of medical physicists and dosimetrists. These professionals are specially trained to assist the physicians in deriving the best way to treat each patient. They use specialized computer systems to evaluate how well an area is being treated by the radiation and how well the surrounding healthy tissues are being protected from it.

Medical physicists also work in other ways to ensure high-quality patient care in the department. They routinely conduct tests on the treatment machines, CT scanner, and other equipment used throughout the Center. On a more personal level, the physics staff spends a great deal of time reviewing every patient’s case individually. This type of work is sometimes done after hours, so you may notice an occasional bill on a day that you were not in the department. While not always seen, you can be sure that Brigham and Women's/Sturdy Memorial Radiation Oncology Center's physics group is working hard to help maintain the high level of quality and precision that the community has come to know and trust.

If I would like to attend a support group, how do I get in touch with one?

Your oncology nurse can provide you with information on support groups and access to other oncology professionals.

My family would like to attend a support group. Whom should they contact?

The oncology nurse can assist you, as can the local chapter of the American Cancer Society.

After I complete treatment will that be the last time I visit Brigham and Women's/Sturdy Memorial Radiation Oncology Center?

No. Approximately three to six weeks after your last treatment you will return for a follow-up appointment. Thereafter, you will return as needed for an office visit with your radiation oncologist.