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Missing Radiation Treatment

January 18, 2023

By Mike Taylor, Director of Physics & Dosimetry at Alliance Cancer Care 

Radiation therapy is typically administered daily, lasting only a few minutes for each treatment session.
Though each session is relatively short, the total number of treatment sessions can vary depending on
the type and stage of the cancer being treated, as well as your overall health and medical history. The
total number of treatment sessions is carefully selected by your physician specifically for you. Once your
plan has been created, and you’ve started treatment, it’s important to attend every session and avoid
missing any treatments.

One of the main goals of radiotherapy is to deliver a precise and consistent radiation dose to cancer cells
while minimizing the exposure of normal, healthy cells. This requires careful planning and coordination
between your physician and the other radiation therapy team members. Skipping or missing doses can
reduce the overall effectiveness of the treatment, including:

1. Delay in treatment: If a session is missed, it may be necessary to reschedule it, which can delay
the overall treatment process. In some cases, it can prolong the overall treatment process.

2. Changes to the treatment plan: The healthcare team may need to make changes to the
treatment plan if a session is missed, which could affect the overall effectiveness of the
treatment. Additional treatments might be necessary to make up for missed treatments.

3. Increased risk of side effects: Changes to the plan or adding additional makeup treatments can
increase the risk of side effects due to differences from the initially intended plan.

4. Decreased chances of effective treatment: Your physician chooses the most effective treatment
plan for your circumstances. Significant delay in treatment may decrease the efficacy of

Overall, it is important to be as consistent as possible with the treatment schedule prescribed by your
physician. If you cannot attend a scheduled session, please contact the healthcare team as soon as
possible so they can adjust your treatment plan as needed.

Even if you’ve missed some treatment sessions, it’s crucial to finish the course of treatment prescribed
by your physician. If you miss more than a few treatments, particularly in a row, your physician might
recommend additional treatment sessions. Sometimes these can be delivered by giving two sessions on
one day or adding additional treatment days at the end of your initial treatment sessions. Your physician
will choose the best course to maximize the effectiveness of your treatment. Be sure to discuss any
further questions with your treatment team.