The MUSC Health team of physicians, therapists and nurses are centered on your individualized plan for radiation oncology treatment. We will take time to explain each process so that your questions and personal care needs are met before, during and following your treatment.
When you arrive for your consultation appointment with a MUSC Health radiation oncologist, please bring any requested medical records (CT, MRI scans and reports, pathology/biopsy reports) with you unless previously sent to us. It is also important for you to have your insurance cards, including Medicare and any co-insurance cards, as well as your Driver’s License or State ID available for our receptionist. We will confirm your benefits and if needed, obtain any pre-authorization required by your insurance company prior to scheduling the procedure.
Below are some procedures that may be performed prior to your actual TrueBeam STx treatment. Every treatment plan is different and not all of these initial steps are necessary for every patient. The procedures required as part of your individualized treatment plan, and the order in which they will occur, will be explained during your consultation visit.
CT Simulation - A CT scan is needed prior to beginning TrueBeam STx treatment. Even if you recently had a CT scan as part of your diagnosis, a new one will be needed in order for the radiation oncologist and physicist to develop your customized treatment plan. Some patients may need a soft mesh mask or body cradle molded from a lightweight material that helps in the TrueBeam STx treatment process. The fitting is painless and is completed as part of the CT scan process.
MR Imaging - Sometimes special imaging procedures, such as an MRI, are needed in addition to the CT Scan. Your radiation oncologist will write specific directions on areas of your body that need to be imaged. The radiation oncologist also determines whether this procedure requires contrast material, a special dye put in your body that helps the radiologist locate the treatment area on your radiology films. Contrast material is available in IV and oral forms.
Laboratory Studies - The MRI procedure may require contrast material. If you need an MRI with contrast, we need to ensure your kidneys can flush the dye out of your body. Your physician will order what’s known as a “BUN” and a creatinine blood test. The test results determine whether your kidneys can handle the dye on their own or you need IV fluids to help flush out the dye.
Tissue Markers - Depending on your individual case, you made need small tissue markers known as fiducials implanted in or near the tumor site. Fiducials help the TrueBeam STx system precisely target the treatment area. A physician implants the fiducials in or near the tumor site in a brief outpatient procedure. We will schedule this procedure and provide instructions for preparation. If needed, fiducial placement takes place prior to the CT scan.
Patients are asked to wear comfortable clothing during TrueBeam STx treatments. Jewelry is acceptable unless it is close to the area being treated. For example, we ask that earrings and necklaces be removed prior to treatment of tumors within the head and neck. Most of all, relax! This is a painless procedure.
A radiation therapist will help you onto the treatment table and fit the mask or body mold if needed. Patients are observed throughout the treatment on closed-circuit television, and they can pause treatment at any time by waving or speaking to the therapist.
There’s no sedation or anesthesia required. Sometimes patients take naps during their procedures. Feel free to bring an MP3 player or your favorite music CDs with you on the day of your treatment, and we will play them for you during the procedure. We also have a music software program in which you can select your favorite genre of music to be played during the treatment session.
While the TrueBeam STx’s advanced tracking system accounts for movements like breathing, you’re asked to lie still during treatments. The system periodically takes x-ray images and compares them to the CT scan data to make sure the radiation beam is locked on the tumor. Treatment procedures take about 15 minutes, depending on the complexity of your tumor.
Patients are usually allowed to leave the center once the treatment is complete and go right back to their normal routines. If your physician prescribes treatment that is fractionated, or divided in stages, you’ll need to return for up to four more treatments, depending on the treatment plan.