Radiation therapy can have several side effects just like many other types of cancer treatment. Often known as "radiotherapy" or "radiation," it is a type of cancer treatment that aids in destroying cancer cells and reducing tumor size. The side effects of radiation therapy vary from patient to patient, with some people experiencing very serious side effects and others barely any at all.
Radiation can be delivered externally to the affected part of the body. Internally administered radioactive substances are another way to deliver radiation therapy to the body. The treatment may cause some side effects since it may damage healthy cells in the targeted location along with affected cells.
Dryness, itching, peeling, and blistering are a few examples of side effects on the skin. Radiation therapy affects healthy skin cells in the treated region, which results in these changes.
Feeling worn out or fatigued is a common side-effect of radiation therapy as well.
The side effects differ, depending on which part of the body is being treated. A list of possible side effects may include the following:
Loss of hair in the treated area
Problems in the mouth area - such as pain, dryness, and swallowing issues
Tenderness and soreness of genitals if radiation is being administered to this area
Blood count changes
Swelling in the affected area
Bladder issues such as incontinence and pain during urination
There are some things you can do to ease the side effects of radiation therapy and maintain your health and wellbeing. Here’s what is recommended by experts.
The body uses up a lot of energy during radiation therapy to heal itself. Fatigue may also be brought on by commuting for treatment daily, the stress associated with your condition, and radiation's effects on healthy cells. After a few weeks of radiation therapy, most patients start to feel fatigued. Avoid doing too many chores during the treatment period. If you're feeling exhausted, reduce your activities and get some rest. Getting a good night's sleep can speed up recovery. It may be more difficult to deal with the stress of radiation therapy if you're tired and haven't slept well.
Read More: Chemotherapy Tips to Brave Its Side Effects
But while you're in therapy, some simple strategies might help you manage any sleep issues. These include developing a bedtime ritual, expressing your worries in writing, and limiting naps. Additionally, because fatigue and insomnia are often left undiagnosed, it is important that you discuss these symptoms with your doctor if they aren't resolved by basic techniques.
The skin in the treated region may become reddish, irritated, sunburned, or tanned if exposed. It may also become extremely dry. Some patients also report having a ‘moist reaction’. This can cause extreme discomfort to the skin when it is damp. This condition can lead to higher chances of infections. In such a situation, one should immediately consult one’s doctor.
You might find it beneficial to seek treatment from an onco-dermatologist, a medical professional who focuses on treating skin issues that cancer patients experience.
Treat the skin in the treatment region with extreme care. Take the following precautions
Avoid causing irritation to skin that has been treated because this can damage the epidermis, which is the skin's outermost layer and a barrier to the outside world.
Use only lukewarm water and mild soap when washing.
Avoid wearing tight clothing.
Avoid rubbing, scrubbing, or scratching any delicate areas.
Do not apply anything extremely hot or extremely cold to your treated skin - such as heating pads or ice packs.
During and post-therapy time period, avoid using any powders, creams, fragrances, deodorants, body oils, ointments, lotions, or homemade treatments in the region being treated (unless approved by your doctor or nurse). The reason for that is that many skin products leave a coating on the skin that can interfere with radiation therapy or healing.
When receiving therapy and for at least a year after it is completed, protect yourself by avoiding exposing the treated skin to the sun. Wear sunscreen daily and be cautious in protecting yourself from the sun. Go for protective clothing (such as a hat with a broad brim and a shirt with long sleeves).
Radiation therapy can cause hair loss or alopecia in the treated area. After the treatments are done, many patients report that their hair grows back, but adjusting to the temporary loss of hair can be difficult. The amount and type of radiation therapy you receive will affect your hair regrowth. Your hair may be different or finer when it grows back, and you need to be prepared to embrace it.
Cover your head with a hat, turban, or scarf especially when going out in the sun because your scalp might be sensitive after losing hair. If you are opting for a wig, make sure the wig's lining doesn't irritate your scalp. The cost of a hairpiece you need during your cancer treatment is deductible from your taxes, and your health insurance may help with some of the cost.
It's a good idea to choose your wig early on in your treatment so that you can easily match the color and style to your own hair.
Although many side effects might make eating and digestion difficult, you should constantly strive to eat enough to support the repair of damaged tissues. Eating a nutritious diet during therapy also keeps patients energetic, helps in coping with side effects, reduces infection risks, and promotes recovery. You must maintain weight for your body to recover throughout radiation therapy. Try to eat small meals at regular intervals.
During the course of your treatment, you can even lose interest in food. Changes in healthy cells can result in loss of appetite. Some patients simply don't feel like eating, either as a result of the stress associated with their condition and treatment or because the treatment changes how food tastes. It is very important to maintain your calorie and protein intake, even if you are not feeling hungry. Patients who eat healthily are better able to manage their cancer and its adverse effects, according to doctors.
Your doctor could suggest using a powdered or liquid food supplement if you experience pain when you chew and swallow. Ask your medical provider to recommend a dietitian who can guide you on diet.
You may feel mentally and emotionally overwhelmed during your cancer diagnosis and treatment. Discussing your feelings with a close friend, a member of your family, a preacher or a spiritual leader, a nurse, a social work counselor, or a psychologist may be helpful. Speak with your radiation oncology team to learn about support groups in your neighborhood. Many support groups have meetings that take place in person, on the phone, or online.
Most significantly, if you suffer any uncommon symptoms while receiving radiation therapy, call your radiation oncology team. We want you to keep in mind that you are not alone when you undergo radiation therapy since we are here to support you every step of the way. Throughout your treatment and the time, you are recovering, we make sure you have support. Call (352) 345-4565 to make an appointment with our experts today.