If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, your oncologist may have recommended radiation therapy as part of your comprehensive treatment plan. Radiation treatment is one of the most common treatments for cancer. However, there are side effects of radiation treatment that can be uncomfortable, especially if a patient does not know what to expect. Below we will explain radiation treatment and discuss some common side effects associated with it.
What is radiation treatment?
According to the American Cancer Society, radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons, to destroy or damage cancer cells. Normally, your cells naturally grow and divide to form new cells, but for cancer patients, cells grow and multiply faster than the normal rate. Radiation treatment works by making small breaks in the DNA inside cells, which causes the cancer cells to die.Normal cells adjacent to these cancer cells can also be affected by radiation, but will usually recover.
Some people who receive radiation therapy experience dryness, itching, severe redness, blistering, or peeling. Skin problems usually go away a few weeks after treatment ends, however if it doesn’t, your doctor may recommend a topical cream regimen to protect and rebuild those damaged skin cells.
Radiation therapy can cause cancer patients to feel exhausted nearly all the time, and the amount of fatigue you experience can vary depending on your treatment plan. For example, patients undergoing radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy may experience even more fatigue than patients who are simply receiving one treatment or the other.
Thinning hair only happens in the area being treated with radiation therapy. How much hair loss you have, as well as your regrowth rate, varies from person to person and depends on the dose of radiation that you receive. Hair loss can begin a few weeks after radiation therapy begins and is usually temporary with smaller radiation doses. Hair normally regrows a few months after radiation therapy concludes.
Loss of appetite can also begin during the first few weeks of radiation therapy and can continue post treatment. Other side effects like dry mouth, problems swallowing, and nausea and vomiting can contribute to loss of appetite.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of radiation therapy (often referred to as radiation sickness), especially when treating cancer located in the stomach and abdomen, but can also happen regardless of the area being treated. Radiation sickness usually goes away a few weeks after radiation therapy concludes.
It’s important to take care of both your mind and body during radiation treatment to give yourself the best chance to alleviate side effects. Speak with your oncologist about your side effects so he or she can help you develop a plan for mitigating them. If you need radiation treatment in Manhattan, call Rosetta Radiology today to book your consultation with our experienced oncology team.