Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
Lawrence J. Solin, MD, FACR, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:
The timing (interval) to start radiation needs to consider two issues. First, the patient needs to be healed from the surgery before starting radiation, and in general, most patients are healed by the second or third week after surgery. Second, radiation should be started reasonably soon thereafter to maximize the benefit of radiation, and in general, intervals of up to 7 or 8 weeks can be acceptable, depending on the individual patient circumstances.
Once radiation treatments are started, these should be given continuously without break, unless the patient is having a complication from the treatment. Treatment breaks, especially if prolonged, can reduce the effectiveness of radiation.
Most travel arrangements (e.g., airplane and hotel reservations) can be changed (or sometimes canceled) without penalty provided that these arrangements were made prior to the diagnosis of cancer. A letter from the responsible physician is generally sufficient for this purpose.