Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of cancer are treated using radiation therapy?
Most solid tumors as well blood cancers such as leukemia can be treated with some form of radiation therapy.
Additionally, radiation therapy is often used following the conventional surgical removal of a tumor, in order to ensure there are no cancerous cells left around the surgical site.

What are the common side effects of radiation therapy?
The most common side effects are fatigue, some skin changes, and a potential loss of appetite. Skin changes that might be experienced are redness, irritation, and a look and feel much like sunburn. Other site-specific changes may occur, such as hair loss when treating around the head or other areas with hair. If you have more questions regarding side-effects please don't hesitate to ask our nursing staff your physician.

Can radiation therapy actually cause cancer?
The risk of a secondary tumor as a result of radiation therapy is very low, and is greatly outweighed by the benefits of treating the current tumor.

Will the treatment be painful?
During external beam radiation including SRS, SRT, and SBRT pain is generally not a factor.

How often and for how long will treatment occur?
The duration of treatment varies based on many factors such as tumor site, size of tumor, and type of cancer. Generally, however, radiation therapy is done 5 days a week for anywhere between 1 and 8 weeks. Typically, the patient receiving radiation will be in and out of our facility within 45 minutes for daily treatment.

Will radiation therapy damage healthy tissue?
While the greatest intensity of radiation is concentrated on tissue containing cancer cells, some healthy tissue will receive a lesser dose of radiation. This healthy tissue that receives radiation is known as the margin and is typically so small it is measured in millimeters. Through extensive planning, the use of precision equipment, advanced computer software, and the collaboration of an entire team of knowledgeable medical professionals (oncologists, physicists, dosimetrists), this margin of healthy cells affected by radiation is kept to an absolute minimum. Even the small amount of healthy tissue damaged by radiation treatment typically recovers in the days and weeks following treatment.

How do I make an appointment with Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital Cancer Center?

  • Contact us by calling 713-790-3333.

Will radiation therapy make me radioactive?
No, after leaving the treatment room, the patient is not radioactive. Following external radiation treatment patients may have physical contact with family and friends without fear of exposing them to radiation.

During some forms of radiation therapy, especially in forms where radioactive seeds are implanted, the patient may, for a short period of time, have residual radiation within their body. This will quickly dissipate once the seed is removed or becomes inactive.

Why, then, can nobody be in the room when I am getting treated?
Our radiation therapists treat several patients every day. The reason that they are not in the room during treatment is that repeated exposure to radiation over a long period of time may be harmful to their health.

Can I continue to take my medications during radiation therapy?
For the most part, medications that were started before undergoing treatment may be continued throughout the treatment process. It is important, however, to let the nurse and physicians know what medications are currently being taken and if this changes during the course of treatment.

What can I do to minimize side effects and raise energy levels during treatment?
Some degree of fatigue can be common with radiation therapy. There are some ways to minimize fatigue if it occurs:

  • Drink plenty of water. Preferably 8- 8 oz cups of water a day.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages.
  • Eat a well balanced diet, drawing from foods in each of the food groups.
  • Eat enough food to maintain your weight. Supplemental diets may be prescribed if weight maintenance becomes an issue.
  • Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Supplement this with short afternoon naps if possible.
  • Engage in some low-impact, low-intensity exercise if at all possible. Some great examples are walking, yoga, and water aerobics.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 713-790-3333.