Today I spent the whole day in the basement, in the radiotherapy department. This was especially interesting as I’ve never even been to RT in the UK before. I was impressed that the hospital had an expensive LinAc machine.
Outside the LinAc room is a row of chairs opposite the control room where the patients sit and wait their turn for treatment. The rad tech sits in the control room and calls the patient to go to the LinAc before the previous patient is even off the table, something which I had a problem dealing with. There was a breast cancer patient who had had a complete left mastectomy lying on the table with her chest exposed while the next patient, also suffering from breast cancer but who had not had surgery, got changed into a gown 4 feet away. I know that the people here are much much hardier than us Brits, but there is no way they are unaffected by these experiences. I also saw a 7 year old boy with a brain tumour come in for what was I think his 6th radiotherapy session; he came in to the room, clambered onto the table and positioned himself prone with his head on the awkward restraint, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Very difficult to watch.
But while it was very distressing to watch, the overall experience was actually very high quality and quite efficient. The patient was brought in for planning following diagnosis the previous day, and had treatment immediately afterwards. The medical physicist and oncologist drew up a comprehensive plan of action taking in to account the patient’s age and current health, ensuring that they only endured what was absolutely necessary for their condition to improve, rather than faffing about with procedures which may lead to increased suffering and discomfort in the long run.