Frequently asked questions about cancer treatment
Many different forms of cancer can be successfully treated, depending on the stage at which it is diagnosed, the location of the tumor and its size. A variety of people diagnosed with cancer enjoy successful treatment outcomes and continue to lead happy, productive lives.
The three most common forms of cancer treatment are surgery, medicines, like chemotherapy or hormone therapy and radiation therapy. They can be used independently or combined to treat the cancer. The most effective protocol against your cancer depends on the type of cancer you have, its stage, location and size.
Surgery is an effective treatment for some cancers, but not all. Also, cancer patients who are not good surgery candidates are often successfully treated with radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Depending on the severity of your diabetes or heart disease, it may impact your treatment options. Your primary care physician, radiation oncologist or other doctors involved in your care can advise you on the type of treatment that will be most effective with the least risk of complications due to any pre-existing conditions.
Unless you have a current health issue that must be resolved first, you should be able to begin your cancer treatment within several days.
Sometimes previous cancer treatments prohibit a repeat of the same form of therapy. However, even if that is the case, the chances are very high that another type of treatment will be effective against your cancer.
How long cancer treatment takes varies from person to person, as your care plan will be tailored to you. It also depends on the type of treatment you need.
A schedule of radiation treatments may last less than a week, or up to several months. It is usually given daily Monday to Friday, with each daily session typically taking between 10 minutes to half an hour, but it can be more for some very technical treatments, such MRI-guided radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is given in cycles, ranging from two to six weeks, and each cycle may consist of more than one dose of treatment, depending on the treatment. You usually have several cycles of chemotherapy.
Hormone therapies may be given over several months or even years to shrink a tumor and prevent its growth.
Yes, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer is called an oncologist. There are also sub-specialties within oncology. A radiation oncologist specializes in using radiation to treat many different forms of the disease. A medical oncologist specializes in treating cancer with medicine, often in the form of chemotherapy, hormone therapy or immunotherapy. There are also surgical specialists who focus on treating cancer. A urologist can remove tumors of the prostate, bladder, kidneys or testicles and can work with your radiation oncologist and/or medical oncologist to determine the best treatment options for you. A general surgeon can specialize in specific types of cancer, such as breast or abdominal cancer. These surgical specialists will work with your radiation oncologist and/or medical oncologist to develop your personalized treatment plan. Other specialists who treat cancer include colorectal, gynecologic oncology, pulmonary, head and neck, and breast surgeons, as well as dermatologists.
Frequently asked questions about radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is an effective cancer treatment that uses an external or internal radiation source to destroy cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with other forms of cancer treatment, including surgery and chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy works by destroying cancerous cells and shrinking tumors. There are two basic types of radiation therapy: external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and internal radiation therapy also called brachytherapy. With EBRT, the radiation is delivered from outside of the body using one of several different types of radiation systems. For patients undergoing brachytherapy, a radioactive source is temporarily or permanently implanted inside the body either in the tumor site or in a cavity left by a tumor that has been surgically removed.
Regardless of whether you and your radiation oncologist choose a form of EBRT or brachytherapy, the primary objective of these increasingly sophisticated systems is to deliver as much radiation as possible—for maximum effectiveness—while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue and possible side effects.
Radiation is an effective treatment for cancer, as well as an effective therapy for shrinking and managing the disease. Success rates depend on the type of cancer, its stage and its location.
The length of a radiation treatment program depends on the type of radiation therapy chosen, as well as the stage, size and location of the disease. Some radiation therapies require just a few sessions, while others may require daily visits, Monday to Friday, for a number of weeks. Each appointment typically lasts from a few minutes up to half an hour.
With the increased sophistication and precision of radiation therapy technology, the extent of side effects has been significantly reduced. Some patients experience side effects while others do not. The type and severity of side effects from radiation typically depends on the location of the tumor. The most common side effects are nausea, fatigue, swelling, loss of appetite and skin irritation. Most of these disappear within a few weeks after treatment is completed. At GenesisCare, our treatment teams are very skilled at helping patients to manage side effects and minimize their severity.
External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is painless. There may be slight discomfort if you have to have markers implanted to help target the beam or if you have stereotactic radiosurgery and must be fitted with a head frame. Internal radiation or brachytherapy is generally not painful, although there may be some slight discomfort after the radiation source is implanted.
External beam radiation therapy, regardless of the technology and therapy type, does not require sedation. You will be able to drive yourself, although we do recommend you bring a friend or family member to treatments as a second set of eyes and ears when discussing your treatment with your care team. Some forms of high-dose-rate brachytherapy, such as accelerated partial breast irradiation, do not require sedation, but others do. Low-dose-rate brachytherapy is a surgical procedure, which is typically done in an outpatient setting. We would always recommend you bring someone with you to your appointments.
It is common for patients to be concerned about being treated with radiation. The goal of radiation treatment is to achieve the best possible outcome for the patient. Today’s systems are extremely safe and meticulously tested and maintained. At GenesisCare, patient safety is our first priority. Creating a safe environment dedicated to continuous quality improvement is an essential part of our practice with our integrated treatment management, planning and delivery systems. Patients going through radiation therapy are not a danger to others, although patients who undergo low-dose-rate brachytherapy are advised to stay away from women who are pregnant and babies for several days. With time, the radiation source diminishes and becomes non-radioactive.
Frequently asked questions about paying for treatment
Every insurance company (plan) has a different co-pay requirement. Our office financial counselor can help you figure out when you will need to provide a co-pay and how much it will be, if any.
We participate in almost all plans. However, if you cannot find us listed in your Participating Provider Directory, you can contact the office financial counselor, in each of our locations, or the insurance plan’s Customer Service Department, whose number is listed on your insurance card, to confirm our participation status.
Yes, if you have Medicare Part B. It covers physician services including radiation therapy.
Yes, we accept Medicare assignment, which is the Medicare-approved amount for our services.
Medicare typically pays 80% of their allowed charge. The patient is responsible for the remaining 20%. Medicare Supplemental insurance—available through many different insurance companies—usually covers the remaining 20%.
We participate in most Medicare-HMO plans. However, the amount covered depends on which HMO plan you have. Our office financial counselor can help you determine that coverage amount. Or you can ask your insurance company. There should be a Customer Service Department number listed on your insurance card.
If you are in a Managed Care Plan that requires you to have a primary care physician (PCP), you must obtain the referral form from your PCP and bring it with you on your first visit. If radiation therapy services need to be pre-certified, the office financial counselor, in each of our locations, will obtain pre-certification.
Yes, we will be happy to take care of that for you. After your primary insurance provider sends us payment, we will file a supplemental claim on your behalf. Please note that supplemental insurance providers often send the payment to the patient. If we do not receive a payment from them after 60 days, we will assume that they paid you directly and will transfer the balance due to you.