If you and your consultant have decided to move forward with radiation therapy, your next visit will be a CT scan to be used to plan your radiation therapy treatment; this is known as a simulation scan. Please be aware that this is not a diagnostic CT scan, although the process is similar. There will not be any results from this scan; the purpose is to provide your consultant radiation oncologist with an accurate picture of your internal anatomy on which he and the multidisciplinary team can develop the best treatment plan customised for you.
Sometimes, as part of this scan, some degree of preparation may be needed, such as a drink or an injection into your arm. If this applies in your situation, the procedure will be explained fully on the day of the scan or you may be contacted in advance of the scan.
We will ensure that you are positioned as comfortably as possible for the simulation scan, as it is essential that you maintain your position for the duration of the scan and also during delivery of each radiation therapy treatment as well.
Three small permanent reference marks or tattoos, which look like freckles, may be made on your body depending on which area your consultant radiation oncologist wants treated. This allows your radiation therapists to set you up in exactly the same position during your treatment.
In order to help the radiation therapists ensure you are in the correct position, an immobilisation device may be used at your CT simulation appointment – this may be a mask if you are having treatment to the head or neck area, or it may be a pillow, known as a Vac-Bag, which is individually shaped to fit you. Your radiation therapist will explain the procedure for these immobilisation devices at your CT simulation.
Once this scan is complete, it will take some time to prepare your individualised treatment plan. It is not always possible to give you an exact start date at this point, although every effort is made to do so.