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Side-effects Of Radiation Therapy For Cancer Treatment

28 September, 2020 Ankita Singh

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses high energy radiations to destroy cancer cells. X-rays are the most commonly used radiation in radiation therapy. External radiation and internal radiation are the two main types of radiation therapy.

External radiation therapy is the most common type of radiation therapy used in cancer treatment. In this type of radiation therapy machines outside the body are used to deliver radiation.

Internal radiation therapy is uncommon and used only in certain gynecological and prostate cancer treatment. Small applicators are placed in the patient’s body to deliver radiations. Patients are usually sedated when receiving internal radiation therapy.

Radiation Therapy is Used in the Following Ways to Treat Cancer:

  • As the only treatment to make the patient cancer-free.

  • In combination with other forms of treatment like chemotherapy

  • Pre-surgery to shrink the cancerous tumor.

  • Post-surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells

  • In stage IV cancer to reduce symptoms caused by cancer

Can Radiation Therapy Cause Side-effects

Yes, radiation therapy indeed does cause side-effects. Every patient experiences different types of side-effects depending on factors like the type of radiation, amount of radiation, part of the body receiving radiation, and the patient’s overall health. Prediction of the intensity of side-effects is not possible. While some patients experience severe side-effects others may experience only mild inconvenience.

The patients should be up-front about their discomforts to their medical team. The medical team should also be honest to the patients and inform the patient about the expected side-effects of radiation therapy.

Types of Side-effects Caused by Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy can have early and late side-effects.

Early side-effects: Early side effects include nausea, fatigue, skin irritation, etc. These may start during or immediately after receiving the treatment. Early side-effects can last for a few weeks after which it starts getting better.

Late side-effects: Late side-effects include damage to body parts like lungs and heart, problems in bladder, bowel and fertility, and second cancer. These can start showing months or years after radiation therapy. The doctor and patient should weigh the pros and cons of radiation therapy in regard to late side-effects.

Early Side-effects of Radiation and Ways to Manage The

Fatigue

The patient may feel exhausted and unlike common daily life exhaustion, it won’t go away even with rest. It can hinder normal day to day life. The exhaustion can be of different intensity on different days. It can make it tough for the patient to follow a routine.

Some ways to manage fatigue are:

  • The patients should talk to their doctor about their struggle with fatigue.
  • Take counseling sessions and ask about ways to preserve energy, reduce stress, and keep your mind off of fatigue.
  • Save energy to do the most important works.
  • Take leave from professional work.
  • While it may sound like a paradox, the best way to manage fatigue is ‘to take plenty of rest and be as active as possible.’

Skin problems

Radiation can cause the skin to appear red, sunburned, or tanned. It may also cause swelling, blisters, dryness, flakiness, and itchiness.

Some ways to manage skin problems are:

  • Wear loose clothes.
  • Do not scratch or scrub the skin.
  • Use mild soap and lukewarm water to clean the skin.
  • Do not use hot or cold pads.
  • Do not use any ointments without consulting the doctor.
  • Do not go out in sun.

Eating Problems

It is very important to keep a healthy diet during cancer treatment but radiation therapy can make patients lose their appetite.

Try these tips to keep eating:

  • Spread your meals into six small ones instead of three full meals.
  • Try out new recipes and dishes to keep your diet interesting.
  • Keep healthy snacks in your hands’ distance.

Diarrhea

Radiation therapy can cause diarrhea after a few weeks of therapy. The doctor will prescribe you medicines and suggest some temporary change in diet. You can order cancer medicines in Delhi from 3MEDS.

Oral problems

Radiation in the head or neck region can cause oral problems like mouth sores/ulcers, lack of saliva, thick saliva, trouble in swallowing, and stiffness in the jaw.

Manage these side effects by:

  • Avoiding spicy and acidic food.
  • Not smoking/chewing tobacco
  • Not intaking alcoholic drinks.
  • Brushing teeth 2-3 times with fluoride toothpaste and a soft brush.

Hearing problems

Radiation therapy in the head region can lead to a temporary hearing problem. Talk to your doctor if you are facing a problem in hearing.

Nausea

Radiation therapy can also cause nausea. Your doctor can prescribe medicines and tell you ways to control or reduce the feelings of nausea. You can buy medicines online in Delhi buy just uploading your prescription from 3MEDS.

In a nutshell

Radiation therapy is one of the primary forms of cancer treatment. It is a painless treatment however, it has several short and long-term side-effects. The medical team and the patient should consider the pros and cons of radiation treatment. The patients should be honest about their fears, physical problems, and any discomfort to their doctors.