The Radiation Oncology program at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care (HACCC) is committed to superior patient care - from preventive screenings to the most advanced treatment and follow-up care.
We use the most sophisticated technology available to target, localize and treat your cancer effectively.
Our goal is to develop and implement treatments that maximize the chance of curing cancer while minimizing radiation to normal organs.
Our radiation oncologists provide the medical expertise, emotional support and answers you need about your illness, your treatment and how it may affect you, your family, work and friends.
We use many different advanced technologies to treat our patients. Your radiation oncologist will discuss which technology provides the best treatment options for your type of cancer. This technology includes:
This helps our highly trained staff properly position you for treatment planning.
Eclipse Treatment Planning System
This helps our team efficiently create, select and verify the best treatment plans and ensure proper dosages.
Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS)
This highly focused, highly accurate X-ray beam delivers a large dose of radiation in fewer treatments. We use SRS to treat small brain and spinal cord tumors and certain blood vessel abnormalities.
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)
This uses advanced equipment combined with imaging technology and high doses of radiation to deliver radiation with pinpoint accuracy. We use SBRT to treat certain types of lung tumors that can't be removed safely with surgery. It is also highly effective in treating tumors in the liver and spine.
High-Dose-Rate (HDR) brachytherapy
This treats cancer by precisely placing radioactive implants in tumors. It delivers high-intensity radiation directly into tumors through fine needles or catheters. HDR may be offered as a single technology or in addition to other forms of therapy.
IGRT (Image-Guided Radiation Therapy) and OBI (On-Board Imager)
IGRT is the most advanced form of radiation therapy available. Tumors can shift and move slightly between treatments because of normal processes such as breathing. The OBI provides improved tumor targeting with high-resolution, low-dose digital imaging. This accuracy results in higher radiation doses to the tumor and increases the likelihood of controlling the cancer.
IMRT (Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy)
IMRT allows precise delivery of high-dose radiation directly to tumors while not affecting healthy surrounding tissue.
These highly sophisticated machines deliver precise radiation therapy treatment directly to cancerous tumors.
We use electronic images of the treatment area to verify the treatment plan's accuracy before delivering any dose. These images make sure you are accurately positioned before the first treatment session and during treatments. They show the exact shape, size and area covered by the treatment during the actual treatment.
Respiratory gating (RPM)
This allows radiation therapists and medical staff to allow for tumor motion caused by breathing so the radiation beam operates only when the tumor is within the designated area.
We want you to have the information and support you need before you start treatment. Here are some things to know about your treatment process.
- During your first visit, a radiation nurse will take a brief medical history, check your vital signs and ask you about medications, allergies, past surgeries and symptoms.
- Your radiation oncologist will review your medical tests - which include CT, MRI and PET scans - and perform a physical exam to determine the extent of your disease and your general physical condition.
- Following these steps, your oncologist will discuss potential benefits and risks of radiation therapy and answer your questions. Many patients find it helpful to have a family member or friend present.
CT Simulation Planning Session
Radiation therapy must be aimed precisely at the same target(s) during each treatment to be effective. Before we start your treatments, we will do a "simulation planning session" that involves:
- Doing a CT scan of your body and marking your skin to help your team direct radiation safely and exactly to intended locations;
- Positioning you on the simulation machine in the exact position you will be in during treatment;
- Using molds, casts, headrests or other devices to help you stay in the same position during treatment; and
- Marking your skin and/or the immobilization devices with a bright, temporary paint or small, permanent tattoos.
After your simulation, your oncologist and treatment team members will review information from the simulation, along with your medical tests, to develop your treatment plan. Your oncologist will outline exactly how much radiation you will receive and to what parts of your body.
One benefit of radiation therapy is that it usually is given in outpatient treatments - meaning you don't have to stay in the hospital. You may not need to miss work or recuperate after your treatments.
About the Treatments
- Treatments usually are scheduled five days a week - Monday through Friday - and continue for one to 10 weeks. Please be on time and try not to miss appointments.
- The number of treatments you'll need depends on the size, location and type of your cancer; the goal of treatment; your general health; and other medical treatments you may be receiving.
- The radiation therapist will follow your doctor's instructions in providing treatment. It takes 10-20 minutes to position you for treatment and set up the equipment. If an immobilization device was made during simulation, we will use it each session for exact positioning.
- Once you are positioned correctly, the therapist will leave the room and closely monitor you while giving radiation. The treatment room has a microphone and camera so you can talk with the therapist. We can stop your session at any time if you feel sick or uncomfortable.
- The therapist may move the treatment machine and table to target the radiation to the tumor's exact area. While the machine may make clicking or knocking noises, the therapist always has complete control of it.
- Our team carefully aims radiation to reduce the dose to normal tissue around the tumor, but radiation will affect some healthy cells. Time between daily treatments allows healthy cells to repair much of the radiation effect, while cancer cells are less likely to survive.
- If you have side effects, your treatment may be paused for a day or more. Missed treatments may be made up at the end.
Weekly Status Checks
During radiation therapy, your radiation oncologist and nurse will see you regularly to follow your progress, look for and treat any side effects and address your concerns.
As treatment progresses, your doctor may change your schedule or treatment plan depending on your response or reaction to therapy. Your doctor may also order blood tests, X-rays and other tests to see how your body is responding to treatment.
During your course of treatment, we will regularly verify correct positions of the treatment beams with images from the planning scan. These images do not evaluate the tumor but are an important quality assurance check.
Please take your regularly prescribed medications while you have treatment unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Tell our oncology staff about all of your medications, including vitamins and over-the-counter drugs, so we can list them in your chart. We need an accurate record of your medications and supplements to make sure they're compatible, especially when changes are needed.
Most prescription refills can be called in to your local pharmacy. Narcotic medications must be picked up in the pharmacy.
Please call a day or two before your prescription runs out - or before holidays, vacations or a long weekend - to make sure you always have a supply of important medication. Our prescription refill number is (207) 621-6100.
After You Complete Treatments
Radiation therapy continues to work for a week to 10 days after a completed treatment.
Our staff will discuss a plan with you and your family concerning follow-up care with your personal provider as well as appointments at the cancer center.
We usually schedule a visit with us one month after you finish treatment to determine its effectiveness and discuss the next steps in your care. Your physician may order follow-up studies at that time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I be cured?
Your oncology physician will talk with you about your specific illness and the factors that will affect the outcome of your individual treatments.
Will I lose my hair from radiation?
You only lose hair in the area being treated. You will not lose the hair on your head unless your head is treated.
Will I be sick?
No. Most people do not get sick or nauseated from radiation therapy. A person whose stomach area is being treated may experience some nausea. We can often prevent this with medication.
Will I be radioactive to other people?
No. You can be near other people and they will not be affected by your treatments.
Can I eat and drink?
Yes. Eating and drinking will not interfere with your treatment.
Can I have an alcoholic drink with dinner?
Having an alcoholic drink will not affect your treatments. Alcohol may conflict with medications you take, however, so please check with your doctor.
Will my treatment be painful?
No. The treatments do not cause pain. It's like having a simple X-ray. You should not feel any discomfort during the treatment.
How long will the treatment take?
We spend more time preparing you for treatments than actually receiving the treatments, which usually take less than five minutes.
How safe are the machines?
There are many safety devices built into our treatment machines. They are fully shielded so only the treated area receives the prescribed dose of radiation. We also perform daily checks to ensure the machines operate normally.
Will it burn?
No. Your skin may redden from radiation but this will not occur for a few weeks. We will tell you how to care for your skin throughout your treatments. Please follow these instructions very carefully. Reddened skin usually goes away after you finish treatment.
Why do I feel so tired?
Treatments may make you feel tired after a few weeks. This fatigue should improve within a month after you complete your treatments. The change in your routine and stress also may add to your fatigue.
What if I have a problem at night or on weekends?
We are here for you. If you have an emergency situation after the normal working hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday - Friday, please call our answering service at (207) 621-9400. They will contact your oncologist or the physician on call to help you. If you need immediate care, go directly to the nearest hospital Emergency Department.
How am I charged for these services?
Patients seen in the Radiation Oncology Department will receive two separate bills:
- Hospital: The hospital bill covers such things as use of the rooms, machines and technical services. The hospital will bill you periodically throughout your treatment. If you have questions about the hospital part of your bill, please call (877) 255-4680 or (207) 872-4680.
- Physician: You also will receive a bill periodically from Radiation Oncology Associates for physician services throughout your treatment. If you have questions about the physician part of your bill, please call (800) 287-6034.
Insurance co-payments are due at your visit. Your insurance coverage will determine the amount. We'll submit your bill to your insurance.
If you have managed care insurance coverage, you'll need a referral and authorization from your primary care physician before starting your consultation or treatments.
If you don't have insurance, our financial counselors and care managers can help you apply for any available financial assistance. Patients may qualify for MaineCare or MaineGeneral's uncompensated care services program.