March 29, 2023, |Bladder Fill, Bowel Emptying, Radiation Therapy, Treatment Process, Vac-loc
Nurse with patient
By Dr. Rajiv S. Dahiya, MD
Being diagnosed with prostate cancer and preparing for an Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) course can be overwhelming. This article aims to guide you through the daily preparation process, including bladder filling, bowel emptying, and what to expect as you lay on the treatment table during the radiation treatment. In addition, we aim to ease your concerns and empower you with knowledge as you navigate your treatment journey over the next several weeks.
Step 1: Bladder Filling
A full bladder can help displace the intestines from the treatment area, reducing radiation exposure to healthy tissues. To ensure your bladder is adequately filled before each session, follow these guidelines:
Drink 16 to 24 ounces of water 30-45 minutes to an hour before your appointment. This will give your bladder enough time to fill up. Avoid caffeinated beverages, as they can cause your bladder to empty more quickly. Instead, maintain a consistent drinking routine each session to achieve similar bladder fullness. If you’re struggling with the timing, work with your radiation therapist or nurse to find the best schedule for you.
Step 2: Bowel Emptying
An empty bowel can help reduce the amount of gas or stool in the rectum, providing a more stable treatment area. To achieve this:
Aim to have a bowel movement before your radiation session. To promote regular bowel movements, incorporate a high-fiber diet, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Drink plenty of water daily to stay hydrated and support healthy digestion. We may prescribe Simethicone (aka Gas-X) or other similar over-the-counter medicines to help alleviate and stabilize excess bowel distension due to gas. Consult your healthcare team if you’re experiencing constipation or other bowel-related concerns
Step 3: The Treatment Experience
Upon arrival at the radiation therapy center, you’ll be escorted to the treatment room, where you’ll undress from the waist down and be provided a sheet for modesty. Next, the radiation therapist will help position you on the treatment table, where you’ll lie on your back on a Vac-Lok device. This custom-molded cushion helps ensure that you remain in the same position for each treatment session, which is crucial for the accuracy and effectiveness of IMRT.
During the treatment:
The radiation therapist will leave the room but monitor you through a closed-circuit video system. In addition, you can speak to your therapist at any time with two-way audio. The machine delivering the radiation, the linear accelerator, will rotate around you, targeting the prostate with high precision. You won’t feel any sensation, heat, burning, or pain during this process. There are no injections or intravenous therapy during the treatments. Think of this as a fancy x-ray machine.
The treatment session typically lasts 3-5 minutes. Getting you in the proper position may take a few extra minutes. It’s essential to remain still and breathe normally throughout the procedure. After the treatment, the radiation therapist will help you get up from the table, and you can get dressed. It’s that simple. Over several weeks, you’ll attend daily radiation therapy sessions (usually Monday through Friday). Consistent attendance is crucial for the treatment’s success. It’s also essential to maintain open communication with your healthcare team, discussing any side effects or concerns that may arise during your treatment journey.
We know a cancer diagnosis can be scary, and our team will work with you every step to help ease the tension. Understanding the daily preparation process for IMRT radiation therapy can help alleviate anxiety and make the process flow much smoother. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me or any member of your radiation oncology team. To know more about Prostate Cancer and Proton Therapy for Cancer