How Will Radiation Help?

Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to damage and stop cancer cells from growing. Getting radiation is like having an x-ray — you won’t see or feel anything, and you won’t become radioactive.

Rapid Response Clinic

Sometimes patients need urgent radiation therapy treatment to help them manage their symptoms.  If you are in this situation, your oncologist or physician may refer you to our Rapid Response Clinic.

Your Radiation Therapy Team

At the Stronach Regional Cancer Centre (SRCC) at Southlake, your radiation therapy team is led by Dr. Woodrow (Woody) Wells, Head, Regional Oncology Lead, and includes medical physicistsradiation oncologists and radiation therapistsas well as specialized oncology nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Your Radiation Therapy Process

Watch the following less than two-minute video to learn about radiation therapy at the SRCC at Southlake and what to expect. (If you are viewing this site on a smartphone, go to this page for the video.)

Your radiation therapy involves the following steps, which all take place on the ground floor (G) of the SRCC at Southlake:

1 – Pre-Radiation Patient Appointment (PRPA) – You will attend a 20-minute, one-on-one education appointment with a radiation therapist to tell you what to expect at every step.

2 – Planning Appointment – You will attend an approximately one-hour planning appointment, where you will be given a computed tomography (CT) simulation. This appointment will give your radiation oncologist and radiation therapist the information they need to accurately outline your treatment area.

During this appointment, your radiation therapist will use a fine needle to place marks on your skin that outline your treatment area and position. These marks wash off but will leave tiny, freckle-size permanent tattoo-like marks. After this appointment, the team will carefully review the details of your treatment plan.

Then, the SRCC at Southlake will call you with the date and time of your first radiation treatment appointment, which may be about two weeks after your CT simulation appointment.

3 – Treatment Delivery Appointment – You will go to the Bahen Chant Radiation Treatment Centre on the ground floor (G) for your radiation treatment. Your first treatment will be the longest (30 – 45 minutes). Radiation therapists will use the tattoos from your planning visit to position you for your treatment.

Your radiation therapist will deliver your treatment from outside your treatment room but can see you on a video screen. They can also hear you all the time, so you can talk to them, if necessary.

Each subsequent treatment will be about 15 to 30 minutes.

Side Effects or Symptoms

As radiation can’t tell the difference between cancer cells and normal cells, normal cells are also affected. This is why you may get side effects related to this treatment. These side effects or symptoms vary depending on the area being treated, the prescribed radiation dose and the length of your overall treatment. Normal cells can heal and regrow, so your side effects will get better over time. Radiation therapy is usually given over a number of weeks to reduce the possibility of side effects. If you get side effects, they will start gradually and continue after the last treatment.

Your radiation oncologist and therapists will discuss possible side effects with you and methods for managing them. We will also monitor you throughout your treatment and during weekly visits with your care team.

Photo of mother and daughter with text: Quitting smoking helps radiation therapy work better and may reduce side effects

VMAT-Enabled Therapy Eases Your Treatment

The SRCC at Southlake is the first cancer centre in Ontario to have volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT) radiation. During VMAT-enabled therapy, the machine rotates around the patient. This equipment makes it possible for your team to precisely target radiation on your cancer tumour, while reaching less of the organs surrounding it. It also enables daily treatments to be much faster, potentially reducing any side effects you may experience. Watch this two-and-a-half-minute video to learn more about VMAT radiation.


Where to Get Help

It’s essential you tell your care team about any side effects you experience, so they can help you. Check the:

  • Managing Your Symptoms page for more information on how to manage your symptoms or side effects.
  • Supportive Care to learn about services, programs and resources to help you before, during or after your treatment.

Challenges Getting to Your Treatments? – If you can’t afford the cost of travel, or are not physically well enough to use public transit, speak with a social worker on your care team or contact the Canadian Cancer Society, to learn how its Wheels of Hope program can help you find a solution.

To Book, Change or Cancel your Appointment:

Call 905-830-5800 and follow the prompts

Questions? Need More Information?

What’s Next?

Click/tap the following links to learn about the next steps in your experience with cancer,  your options and where to get help:

  1. Prepare for Treatment to learn about your treatment plan and how to prepare for it
  2. Managing Your Symptoms (or side effects) to help you get through your treatment, as comfortably as possible
  3. Supportive Care to help you before, during or after your treatment
  4. Beyond Treatment to learn about options and help beyond treatment