Frequently Asked Questions and Linear Accelerators in Radiation
We understand that radiation therapy can be
confusing or overwhelming. This handout
contains a list of questions that many
patients have asked in the past. We hope
this information will help you understand
what will happen during your treatment.
When will I get the results of my CT scan
The CT scan that you had today was for
treatment planning only. Doctors or
therapists will not be able to use this scan to
see changes in your tumor.
When will my first radiation therapy
treatment appointment be?
After your CT scan, your treatment plan will
be made. You do not have to be present for
the planning session. The radiation therapist
from your treatment machine will call you in
a week or two to set up your first treatment.
The therapists will try their best to work
with your scheduling needs.
How will I know where my treatment will
The therapist who calls you will tell you
which machine will be used for your
treatment. You will be given directions to
Where do I check-in?
When you start coming in for treatments,
you will not need to check-in at the main
registration desk. You may come straight
down to radiation oncology and check-in at
your treatment machine with a radiation
When will I see my doctor or nurse?
During treatment, your doctor and nurse will
see you on a regular basis. They will follow
your progress, assess any side effects, and
address any concerns you may have. You
will see your doctor once weekly. Of
course, concerns may come up on days that
you will not see your doctor. If this
happens, please let your therapists know.
They can answer your questions or refer you
to someone else who may help you.
Can I feel the radiation?
You will not feel the radiation. You can
hear the machine turn on and make a
Who else will be a part of my treatment
● Radiation Therapists work with
doctors to give the daily treatment. They
are under the doctor’s prescription and
supervision. They maintain daily
records. They regularly check the
treatment machines to make sure they
are working properly.
● Dosimetrists carefully calculate the dose
of radiation to make sure the tumor gets
enough radiation. Using computers, they
work with the doctor and the medical
physicist to create a treatment plan.
● Medical Physicists work directly with
the doctor during treatment planning and
delivery. They direct the work of the
dosimetrists. They help ensure that
treatments are proper for each patient.
Will radiation make me sick?
You may have side effects from your
radiation treatment. The side effects are
based on the area of your body treated. For
example, patients being treated to their
abdomen or pelvis may feel nauseous. Ask
your therapists what side effects you may
have. Feeling tired during radiation
treatment is a common side effect that many
patients have. Skin reactions from the
radiation are also common. You will
receive more information once you begin
Will I lose my hair?
If you are being treated to your head or any
part of the body covered with hair, there is a
chance that you could lose your hair in that
area. Based on the dose of radiation that
you receive, hair loss can be permanent or
When will I see side effects from the
As a rule, about 2 weeks after the start of
your treatment side effects may begin. Your
therapist will provide you with information
once you start treatment.
Will I be radioactive?
No. The only time there is radiation is when
the machine is turned on. You are safe to be
around others because you are not giving off
What happens if I can’t make it to one of
my radiation therapy treatments?
Please call the treatment machine on which
you are being treated. Speak with a
therapist. It is advised that you do not miss
any of your treatments. If you do need to
cancel an appointment, another day will be
added on to your treatment schedule to make
up for the missed day.
How can I contact my doctor before I
start treatment or in-between treatments?
You may call our department at (608) 263-
8500 to speak with your doctor or a nurse.
Linear Accelerators are commonly referred
to as “linacs.” The first treatment is typically
30 to 45 minute visit. The treatments after
are usually 15-30 minutes long. You will
see your doctor once a week. The doctor
will monitor your side effects and address
any other concerns. In most cases, the visit
with your doctor is after one of your
treatments. You will not need to make a
separate appointment to see your doctor
each week. The therapist will set you up
with that each time. You should plan on
being in the clinic a little longer on those
What is a Linac?
A linac is a machine that is designed to
deliver high-energy x-rays to treat certain
diseases, most commonly cancer. The
machine can rotate around you while you are
on the treatment table.
What happens during a treatment visit?
Please arrive for your treatment in Radiation
Oncology at the time you were given. Check
in at the reception desk in Radiation
Oncology before your treatment. Then have
a seat in the waiting room by your treatment
● You will be called into the room, and
the therapist will explain the process
● You may be asked to remove some
clothing or personal items during the
● The table will move up and in
towards the treatment machine.
There are positioning lasers in the
treatment room that the therapists
will use to align you on the table.
This is to put you in the correct
treatment position. The therapists
will use the tattoos or marks that you
were given at the CT to line you up.
● On the first day of treatment the
radiation therapists will use an
imager on the machine to take x-
rays. Sometimes the machine moves
while it is taking the x-rays. These
x-rays will confirm that you are in
the correct position for treatment.
Therapists may make adjustments to
your position before starting
treatment. Your radiation doctor will
be called to the treatment unit to see
the images and make sure everything
is as planned.
● After the first day, the treatment
itself will just take a few minutes,
but you may be in the treatment
room for about 15-30 minutes total
for set-up and treatment.
● When the treatment is finished, the
therapists will come into the room
and help you off the table.
● There is no pain or discomfort with
treatments. You will not see, feel, or
hear the radiation. You will hear
some background noise from the
machine. The therapists will watch
you with TV cameras and can hear
you at all times. If at any time you
need something, wave your hand or
call out loudly. The therapist will
stop the machine right away and
come into the room.
● Side effects of treatment depend on
what part of your body is treated.
Your doctor will discuss these with
● Treatments are given Monday-
Friday. If you need to reach the staff
you may call your treatment machine
Monday through Friday between
8:00 and 4:00.
○ Room A: (608) 263-8503
○ Room D: (608) 890-5288
○ East Clinic: (608) 504-4180
● In your last week of treatment, you
will meet with your doctor. A
follow-up visit will be made at this
time if necessary.
● If you have any questions or
problems once you are home, call the
Radiation Oncology Clinic at (608)
263-8500. If the clinic is closed, the
hospital answering service will pick
up the call. Ask for the radiation
oncology doctor on call. Give your
name and phone number with the
area code. The doctor will call you
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor.
This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because
each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team
when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2017 University of
Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7229