Do you have questions or concerns about your cancer treatment?
Having complete trust in your cancer care team and treatment plan is essential. We welcome any question you may have.
General Questions About Cancer Treatment
- Can my cancer be successfully treated?
Many different forms of cancer can be successfully treated, depending on the stage at which they are diagnosed, the location of the tumor and its size. Many people diagnosed with cancer are successfully treated and continue to lead happy, productive lives.
- What are the different types of cancer treatment?
The three most common forms of cancer treatment are surgery, chemotherapy 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.
- Do I need to have surgery?
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.
- I have diabetes or heart disease – how will it affect my treatments?
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.
- Do I have to wait before I start treatment?Unless you have a current health issue that must be resolved first, you should be able to begin your cancer treatment within several days.
- What are the side effects of radiation therapy and how long will they last?
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 of radiation therapy are nausea, fatigue, swelling, loss of appetite and skin irritation. Most of these disappear within a few weeks after treatment is completed. At 21st Century Oncology, our treatment teams are very skilled at helping patients manage side effects and minimize their severity.
- I’ve had cancer before. Does that limit my treatment options?
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 do treatments last?
Radiation treatments may last one week or less or up to several months. It depends on the treatment path you choose and whether or not your oncologist recommends more than one form of treatment.
- Are there special doctors for cancer treatment?
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 biotherapy. 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 treatment plan. Other surgical specialties that treat cancer include Colorectal, Gynecologic Oncology, Pulmonary, Head and Neck, and Breast Surgeons, as well as Dermatologists.
Common Questions About Radiation Therapy
- What is 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.
- How does it work?
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 External Beam Radiation Therapy 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.
- Can radiation therapy effectively treat my cancer?
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.
- How long does radiation therapy take?
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 for a number of weeks. Each appointment typically lasts from a few minutes up to half an hour.
- What are the most common side effects of radiation therapy?
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 21st Century Oncology, our treatment teams are very skilled at helping patients manage side effects and minimize their severity.
- Is radiation therapy painful?
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 radio surgery 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.
- Can I drive myself to and from treatments?
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. 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. That said, we recommend you bring someone with you to your appointments.
- Is radiation therapy safe?
It is common for patients to be concerned about being treated with radiation. Today’s systems are extremely safe and meticulously tested and maintained. At 21st Century Oncology, we take safety to a new level with our proprietary technology that automatically measures each dosage amount against the patient’s treatment plan and alerts the Radiation Therapist if there is a discrepancy. It also alerts the Therapist if there is a change in your position or if it detects any anomalies in the equipment.Patients going through radiation therapy are not a danger to others although patients that 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.
Common Questions About Paying for Treatment
At 21st Century Oncology, we treat the whole patient, not just the disease. If you are worried about your insurance and how much of your treatment it will cover, rest assured. We have a team on-staff ready to answer your questions and help you with your insurance paperwork.
In the meantime, we have compiled a list of the most common questions we hear from our patients regarding their insurance coverage.
- Will Medicare cover my treatment?
Yes, if you have Medicare Part B. It covers physician services including many treatment options.
- Do you accept Medicare assignment?
Yes, we accept Medicare assignment, which is the Medicare-approved amount for our services.
- Do I need additional insurance coverage if I have Medicare?
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%.
- I have a Medicare-HMO. Will it cover my treatment?
We participate in most Medicare-HMO plans. However, the amount covered depends on which HMO plan you have. Our team can help you determine that coverage amount. Or you can ask your insurance company. There should be a Customer Service center number listed on your insurance card.
- Does 21st Century Oncology accept my insurance plan?
Most likely, yes. We participate in almost all plans. However, if you cannot find us in your plan’s participating provider directory, contact our office or call the Customer Service number on your insurance card.
- Will you submit my insurance claims to my supplemental insurance provider?
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.
- What if my insurance plan requires a referral or a pre-certification for treatment? How do I get one?
If you are in a plan that requires a referral, then you will need to get one from your Primary Care Physician. Be sure to bring the referral form with you on your first visit. If radiation services need to be pre-certified, our team will obtain the pre-certification for you.
- Will I have a co-pay for each visit?
Every insurance plan has a different co-pay requirement. Our team can help you figure out when you will need to provide a co-pay and how much it will be.
“From the beginning all through to the end, I felt like I mattered to all of them. They were so caring, I would have thought I was the only person they were treating.”
Joyce, Breast Cancer Survivor
You will probably have more questions along the way
At 21st Century Oncology, we work with almost all of the insurance providers and know their systems and requirements inside and out. We also know all about Medicare and Medicaid. Please do not hesitate to call our office or set up an appointment to speak with a team member for the next time you come in. We are here to answer your questions so you worry less during your treatment.