Radiation Therapy Planning

Southern Tasmania Area Health ServicesTasmanian Health Service - Southern Region

Radiation Therapy Planning

The first appointment at the Holman Clinic will be for a planning session.  Most patients will have a planning CT scan and an education session with the nurses.  This appointment takes approximately one hour depending on the area of the body to be treated.

Two radiation therapists are responsible for the planning session.  Depending on the area of the body being treated, the patient may be asked to change into a gown and be positioned on the CT scanner couch.  Different types of equipment are used in order to keep the patient still but comfortable during treatment.  The type of equipment used is dependent on the area of the body being treated.  An example is the treatment of the head and neck area where a lightweight mask is made.  .

To locate the treatment area the radiation therapist will use a special marker to draw lines on the patient’s skin.  The doctor may come in during the planning session to also draw some lines on the patient’s skin..  The radiation therapists will take and record some measurements to ensure accuracy of treatment.  The radiation therapists will align the skin markings with lasers lights and then they will take the planning scan.

At the completion of the scan, the patient may be given some permanent reference points.  These are tiny tattoo dot that are used to make the treatment as accurate as possible. Photographs of the patient’s position and equipment will be taken during the session.  The photos assist the radiation therapists to set up the patient exactly the same each day.

It may take a few weeks from the time of the planning scan until treatment starts.. Some of the radiation techniques are very complex and involve a number of staff in the preparation.  The radiation oncologist will outline the area they want treated on the planning computer system and then the radiation therapists will develop an individual treatment plan.  Quality assurance of the treatment plan is undertaken to make sure that this is the best plan for each patient.  Depending on the complexity of the treatment, this may take several days to a few weeks.  The plan will be approved by the radiation oncologist and treatment may commence.