YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
A. Radiation oncology is the science of treating diseases, mainly cancers, with radiation. Radiation also can be used less often to treat benign disease such as keloids.
Radiation oncology makes use of high energy x-rays, which deposit energy into cancer cells causing them to die and thereby preventing further growth and spread of the disease. The delivered radiation cannot be felt or seen and treatment sessions are therefore completely painless. Each treatment session takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
Modern radiation techniques are designed to spare normal tissue wherever possible, while delivering a high dose to the tumour (cancer) area. However, some irradiation of normal cells is unavoidable and this may produce side effects that are limited to the treatment site. Radiation-sensitive cancer cells are preferentially killed while normal cells are able to repair the damage caused, thereby producing a therapeutic benefit.
The goals of treatment with radiotherapy can be either curative or palliative. Palliative treatment is designed to improve symptoms such as pain, bleeding or obstruction of vital organs. Because of its good side-effect profile and high efficacy, radiotherapy is an excellent treatment modality to palliate the distressing symptoms that can be caused by cancers.
Radiation oncology is sometimes delivered in combination with chemotherapy that acts as a radiation sensitiser, thereby improving the cell-kill of the radiation.
The DMO team comprises specialist radiation oncologists and radiotherapists who have had extensive experience and are respected nationally and internationally.
A. Brachytherapy is a form of internal beam radiotherapy Brachytherapy means treatment from a short distance. Using this technique, the radiation beam is delivered directly to the tumour, thereby reducing the amount of radiation delivered to healthy tissues to a minimum. This treatment is typically given over one to five sessions that can take one to two hours to complete. It can also be delivered by inserting small radioactive “beads” at the tumour site, which remain there either until the cancer cells have been destroyed, or permanently.
A. External radiation therapy is the most commonly used treatment modality, and refers to radiation delivered from a distant source, from outside the body and focused at the patient’s cancer site. Typically the patient lies on a treatment bed and the radiation is delivered from a machine that moves around the patient, thereby targeting the cancer cells. The treatment is usually delivered over multiple sessions daily sometimes lasting up to six to seven weeks
A. Stereotactic radiosurgery involves sophisticated technology that delivers an extremely high dose to a small area with a minimal dose being delivered to surrounding normal tissues. At present, this technology is only available to treat cancers in the head region at our centres, but will become available for the treatment of tumours anywhere in the body in the near future. Treatment can often be delivered in a single session – in contrast to external beam radiation
A. DMO has no waiting list. We will consult with you within five working days of you first contacting us and, once your consultative process is completed we will start your treatment as soon as possible: typically within five working days.
A. DMO will apply for medical aid authorisation on your behalf and, on confirmation, you will be advised of any co-payments in line with your scheme’s benefit structure.
If you are on an ICON medical aid, then, you will have no costs to anticipate for your radiation therapy treatment at DMO.
We do not charge for doctors’ consultations during the course of your treatment (just the radiation sessions are charged for); we also offer free follow up consultations for four months following your last treatment session, for that specific prescription.
A. ICON in the Independent Cancer Oncology Network. Its primary aim is to make cancer treatment more affordable and transparent for better patient care. ICON develops appropriate evidence-based protocols for treatment, as well as processes for standardised care during treatment. Should your medical aid also be part of the ICON structure, you need not be concerned about additional treatment costs or co-payments.
A. EQURA HEALTH offers clinical, administrative, operational and strategic management services in the cancer care domain. The company is currently involved in a large number of affiliated radiation oncology units in Southern Africa, and has a presence in eight of SA’s nine provinces. It is a potential partner of the National Health Insurance (NHI) programme of the South African government – which means that it is positioned to take integrated cancer care seamlessly into the future.
A. Yes – External radiation beam therapy is the most commonly used, and refers to radiation delivered from a distant source, from outside the body and directed at the patient’s cancer site. Brachytherapy involves the insertion of small radioactive “beads” at the tumour site, which remain there either until the cancer cells have been destroyed, or permanently. This technique is increasingly being used to treat cancers of the cervix, uterus, vagina, rectum, prostate and eyes.
Stereotactic radiosurgery involves sophisticated technology that delivers an extremely high dose to a small area. At present, this technology is only used to treat cancers in the head and neck area.
A. There are three main treatments for cancer: surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Radiation oncology is used in three contexts: as the primary treatment (stand-alone), in addition to surgery or chemotherapy, or as a palliative modality to relieve cancer symptoms. However, the selection of treatment is generally site-dependent. For example, cervical tumour sites are normally treated with radiation therapy, while ovarian cancers generally respond better to chemotherapy. Your specialists will make this decision based on your test results, and will consult with you before proceeding. And if radiotherapy is not the best treatment option for you, we will refer you to the correct specialist
A. Side effects happen when healthy cells are lightly irradiated – a process that is, unfortunately, unavoidable. These can include fatigue, and skin reactions, but are site-dependent and are generally reasonably well tolerated. Most radiation oncology patients can continue to function normally during and after their treatment.
A. In most cases, DMO will follow a post-treatment programme. Your radiation oncologist usually likes to see you two weeks after completion of treatment and, from there; your follow-up care plan is tailored to your needs. We will continue to monitor your recovery at regular intervals. Your radiation oncologist will clearly explain to you how often you will need to come for follow ups and which investigations will be required to monitor your progress.
A: The effects of radiotherapy are often delayed for up to three months after completing the treatment. The prescribed treatment needs to be completed and, a few months later, x-rays or scans will be recommended to monitor the effects of the treatment. Symptoms such as pain or bleeding often improve while on treatment but you will still need to wait four to six weeks to assess the full effect.
A: A healthy balanced diet is recommended whilst on radiation treatment. Mild exercise can be beneficial in combating the fatigue experience due to radiation therapy. Make sure you attend treatment sessions on a regular basis and do not miss any treatments without consulting with your radiation oncologist. A positive mental attitude is essential.