At Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Virginia, we understand that a cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. The whole process can be stressful and confusing, leaving you searching for answers, information, support and guidance.

Radiation oncology is one of the primary specialties involved in the treatment of cancer. Also known as radiation therapy, radiation oncology involves using carefully targeted and regulated doses of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells.

The Radiation Oncology departments at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Henrico Doctors' Hospital and Johnston-Willis Hospital are fully accredited by the American College of Radiology and the American College of Surgeons' National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and Commission on Cancer.

Initial Consultation

After a brief registration process, you will have an initial consultation with your radiation oncologist. Your doctor will explain the diagnosis and why radiation therapy is necessary. The doctor will also talk to you about how many treatments you'll need and what side effects to expect. The final step of your first visit will be to sign a consent and schedule a radiation therapy planning appointment (simulation).

Radiation Therapy Planning

Radiation therapy planning requires a special CT scan, which is performed by one of our radiation therapists. While similar to other CT scans, this scan is different due to the positioning required to plan treatment.

After the scan is complete, the radiation therapist will schedule you for your next visit. Radiation therapy planning is extremely complex and can take several days to complete. We understand you may be anxious to begin your treatment, but it takes time to create an optimized plan and perform the necessary safety checks.

Treatment Setup Verification

During your next visit, we will verify your treatment set-up. This is also known as checking "port films." After checking in with the receptionist, the radiation therapist will escort you to the treatment area. This first session is not a radiation treatment; it is used to ensure that your treatments will be exactly as your doctor has planned. Your treatments typically begin within a few days of the verification session. The radiation therapist will explain to you the process of daily check-in for treatments at the end of your verification.

Daily Radiation Treatments

Radiation treatments are delivered on consecutive weekdays, with the weekends off. The radiation therapists will work with you for an appropriate daily appointment time. Treatments can be as short as five minutes or as long as 30 minutes. Your therapists will let you know approximately how long it will take.

Due to privacy concerns, family members may not come back to observe your radiation treatments. We understand that many patients want to share with their families the experience. However, we have to respect the privacy of every patient.

The medical staff will see you at least once a week during your course of radiation therapy. These visits are brief symptom-management checks and typically last five minutes.

Learn more about radiation therapy on Sarah Cannon’s website.