Frequently Asked Questions
Get Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Astera Cancer Care
Find out what you need to know with the answers to our frequently asked questions below. Starting with FAQs about your first visit to FAQs on radiation therapy, we are here to provide you with important information about your care.
If you don’t see your question(s) answered here, please give us a call at 732-390-7750.
Please bring the following with you to your first visit to Astera Cancer Care:
- Your insurance card
- A form of personal ID (drivers license, passport, etc)
- Physician referral forms if required by insurance
- A list of current prescriptions or over-the-counter medications you are taking, including dose and frequency
- Pertinent information about your medical and surgical history
- Any related X-rays or records you may have
What will occur during my initial visit?
Your physician consultation will generally consist of a physical examination, discussion of medical history and diagnosis, probable plan of care, as well as time for any questions you may have. Initial consultations generally last about an hour to an hour and a half. It is necessary to have your medical records forwarded to our office in advance of your appointment so your Astera Cancer Care physician may review them prior to your visit.
How do I know if Astera Cancer Care accepts my insurance?
Will I have any testing done while I’m in the office?
Your physician may order some Laboratory testing (blood work) upon the completion of your consultation. This may be completed in our Labs. Other diagnostic tests, such as scans or x-rays, may be ordered and scheduled for a later date at the appropriate location. These diagnostic tests are not completed in our offices.
Will I start chemotherapy treatment the same day as my consultation?
Chemotherapy treatment will not begin the same day as your consultation. Chemotherapy often requires additional testing such as scans and biopsies before the treatment begins. It is also necessary to have your health insurance company authorize chemotherapy in advance (this generally takes approximately one week) to ensure that your treatment will be covered by insurance. The timing of initial chemotherapy treatments varies on a case by case basis. After your physician has obtained any required test results and your insurance company has authorized the treatment, you will receive a call from the Astera Scheduling Coordinator to schedule your treatment. You will begin with a detailed one-on-one chemotherapy education session with one of our Advanced Practice Providers. This session will provide you with information about your specific treatment and allow you to ask any questions you may have.
Where will I receive chemotherapy treatment?
Many of our patients receive chemotherapy here in our offices. Our oncology nurses are trained in the administration of the latest chemotherapy treatments. Occasionally, due to insurance reasons, we will schedule our patients for their treatment on an out-patient basis at one of the hospitals where our physicians have privileges
I need to see a hematologist, and I understand Astera Cancer Care physicians treat not only oncology (cancer) patients, but also hematology (blood) disorders. Can you please explain?
Our physicians have extensive knowledge and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the blood, ranging from anemia to clotting problems. We treat many hematology patients with non-cancerous blood disorders. (It is very common for oncologists to also practice hematology, as many of the side effects of chemotherapy are blood related, for example, anemia and neutropenia.)
What hospitals are Astera’s providers affiliated with?
We are affiliated with the following New Jersey hospitals: JFK Medical Center in Edison; Robert Wood Johnson University Hospitals in Hamilton, New Brunswick and Somerset; and Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick. We are not able to treat patients at other hospitals, as we are not on staff.
I am aware that I will require chemotherapy treatment and am concerned about the copayments. Are there any assistance programs available?
In the event that you will be receiving chemotherapy treatments, our financial counselors may contact you prior to your first treatment to discuss assistance programs that are available. In cases of need, we will discuss your options regarding assistance from several organizations.
How do I obtain a copy of my health information/medical records?
To obtain your health information/medical records from Astera Cancer Care, you can download our Permission for Astera Cancer Care to Release Med Info, complete it and bring it to any of our offices during business hours. You can also come in to obtain and fill out the form here.
Frequently Asked Questions about Radiation Therapy
How does the radiation therapy work?
Radiation therapy works by inflicting irreversible DNA damage to cancer cells. While healthy, normal cells are able repair any DNA damage inflicted by radiation, cancer cells cannot. This results in the selective elimination of cancer cells and the preservation of healthy cells surrounding the targeted area.
Does radiation affect normal healthy tissues?
Radiation therapy does affect normal cells, but only temporarily. Acute side effects from radiation, such as skin irritation, sometimes occur. However, because healthy cells generally repair this type of DNA damage quickly, any acute side effects that patients may experience usually go away within a few weeks.
What happens during my radiation treatment?
Radiation therapists will bring you into the treatment room and position you on the treatment couch as prescribed during the simulation appointment. If “tattoos” were placed on the skin, they will be used to properly align the radiation beam. The linear accelerator (which generates the radiation) will then deliver the proper amount of radiation prescribed by the radiation oncologist.
How many radiation treatments will I need?
The total amount of radiation treatments you’ll need is largely dependent on the type of cancer being treated. Your radiation oncologist will outline the treatment course and inform you of your overall treatment time.
Will my radiation treatments hurt?
No. Like routine X-rays, radiation treatments are painless. In fact, you’ll feel nothing at all.
What are the side effects of radiation treatment?
The side effects are dependent on the site being treated. The nurse and radiation oncologist will discuss all potential side effects with you prior to your treatment. Most radiation side effects will resolve several weeks after the last treatment. Fatigue has been recognized as a common side effect from radiation therapy, regardless of the treatment site. Fatigue occurs in nearly 30% of all patients and is quite minor. In general, you can continue to work while in therapy.
What should I do if I have any reactions to my treatments?
Report any side effect to the radiation oncologist, nurse, or therapist before your treatment session. They may be able to prescribe medications, creams, or therapies to alleviate your symptoms.
Will radiation therapy hurt my skin?
This depends on the body site being treated. For breast and head/neck cancer patients, the skin may harbor cancer cells. Consequently, the radiation oncologist will want to deliver a full dose to the skin. However, skin will remain intact for most treatment sites.
Will my radiation therapy treatments cause me to lose my hair?
Radiation will only cause hair loss if the scalp is being treated. This may occur for some brain tumor and head and neck cancer treatments. Otherwise, hair loss should not occur.
Will I be radioactive after my treatments?
No. You will not be “radioactive” during or after the treatments.
Do I need to be on a special diet during my radiation treatments?
Radiation may affect your bowels if this area is included in the treatment field. If so, a dietician will meet with you and inform you of appropriate things to consume and avoid. In general, a sensible diet with adequate calories is recommended.
Should I continue to take my normal medications during my treatments?
Yes. Medications typically prescribed for hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol should not interfere at all with the radiation treatments. However, provide a complete list of medications to the nurse or physician prior to beginning your radiation treatments to ensure no adverse effects.
How long do radiation treatments last?
The typical treatment time is 20 minutes. This can be slightly longer for patients receiving IMRT treatments. The actual time that the radiation is “on” is less than 5 minutes. The majority of time is spent by the therapists ensuring proper immobilization and localization of the treatment site to maintain maximum precision.
Will I be able to drive myself to and from my radiation treatments?
Yes. If you were able to drive prior to the start of radiation treatments, then you should be able to drive during the treatments.
What should I do if I miss one of my scheduled treatments?
This will occasionally happen due to inclement weather, personal reasons, or impromptu radiation machine maintenance. The missed session will simply be added to the original schedule.
If you have any additional questions about your radiation treatment that aren’t answered above, please do not hesitate to call us at 609-655-5755.
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Astera Cancer Care is founded on 3 pillars of care:
technology, and treatment
support for every individual
Harnessing collective knowledge by working together for every patient
From Our Patients
As oncologists and hematologists, we combine our expertise, compassion, and dedication with today’s most advanced protocols and treatments to provide you care and hope.