Preparing for Simulation

The next step for most patients, before starting radiation treatment, is “simulation” or a “planning” appointment.

At this appointment, your care team “simulates” or plans the actual radiation treatment by setting up all the equipment and measurements for your visits.

You will not get a radiation treatment at this visit.

Setting the stage

So what happens during your simulation appointment? Think of it like setting up for a shoot on a movie set.

  • Before the director starts shooting a film, the production team reviews the scripts, walks through the location, sets up all the lighting, marks the actor’s positions to be in place, and runs through the scene.
  • Similarly your care team will walk through the steps to set up the radiation equipment, your body position, and calibrating the machines for your radiation treatments.

Below are the steps your care team will take you through to prepare for simulation.

1. Walk you through what will happen during radiation treatment.

2. Set up the correct positioning.

3. Make sure that you are comfortable.

4. Mark the radiation site on your body.

What happens during a simulation scan?

A simulation scan is done to get images of the cancer site.

During the scan:

  • You will be placed in a secure and comfortable position so that measurements and images can be made.
  • You will be in this exact position again during your radiation treatments.

These images are used to design a radiation plan that is customized to your specific body.

This appointment usually takes about 1-3 hours, depending on the types of scans that are taken. When you make your simulation appointment you’ll find out what types of scans may be done and how long that should take.

Special Accommodations

We want to make sure that you are comfortable during your simulation and can make accommodations for specific needs.

Contact your nurse coordinator to learn how they can accommodate your needs if any of these apply to you:

  • Have pain while lying flat on your back
  • Are claustrophobic (feel anxious or afraid in small places)
  • Think you may need pain medicine for the scan
  • Have implanted devices, such as a port, cardiac pacemaker, or brain/spinal stimulator (you will need to bring documentation showing the device’s make and brand)
  • Are allergic to any type of contrast materials or dyes such as gadolinium
  • Have metal in your body (shrapnel, or other metal pieces)

You can also speak with your care team to find out what options they have to help you feel more comfortable while having your radiation treatments.

Before Your Simulation Day

To keep everyone safe COVID-19 screening questions are sent to you through MyHealth. Completing this survey helps make your check-in faster. You will be sent these same screening questions before treatment visits.

If you cannot complete the MyHealth survey, a member of your care team will call you 1 to 2 days before your visit.

You still need to answer COVID-19 screening questions when you enter a Stanford Health Care building.

Click through tips on how to prepare for your simulation day.

What to wear

For your comfort, pick out clothes to wear that are comfortable or old and that you don’t mind getting ink on.

What (not) to eat

Your care team will tell you if fasting is necessary. Follow any fasting instructions from your care team for your simulation day (usually no food or drink, except water).

How you may feel

Take a moment to check in with yourself.

  • How are you feeling?
  • Do you have any concerns or questions?
  • Do you feel the need to “get on with it”?

Sometimes sharing how you feel with your care team, friends or family can be helpful.

Many patients find that they need support before, during, and after treatments.