Radiation therapy kills or damages cancer cells in the area being treated. Cancer cells begin to die days or weeks after treatment starts, and continue to die for weeks or months after it finishes. Although the radiation can also damage healthy cells, most of these cells tend to receive a lower dose and can usually repair themselves. Many people will develop temporary side effects during or shortly after treatment that may cause pain or discomfort.
Chemotherapy means medications given by injections or tablets for treatment of cancer. The medicine circulates throughout the entire body and is generally prescribed by a medical oncologist. Radiation therapy is treatment by rays produced by a linear accelerator or another radiation source, and is prescribed by a radiation oncologist. The radiotherapy beams are focused on a very specific area of the body, and thus the effects are local.
Most radiation therapy treatments are daily, five days per week, for a specified period of one to eight weeks, depending on the disease and the course that the physician plans
Radiation technologists, who are under the direction of the radiation oncologist, will take all the time necessary to ensure that you are accurately positioned for your treatment.
This may be between 15 to 20 minutes. The actual time when the radiation is “on” is generally only about a minute or two for each treatment field. The staff tries to arrange the schedules to ensure that appointments are kept on time, but on some days, there may be delays because of unforeseen circumstances or emergencies.
ANS- On the machine, you would feel nothing atall. Many patients continue with most of their normal activities during treatment — working, gardening, etc. Depending on the area being treated, however, there may be side effects including fatigue, nausea, darkened skin, or diarrhoea. The Radiation Oncologist discusses the likely side effects and prescribe medication for some conditions.
Many patients are able to drive while receiving radiotherapy treatment. However, driving may NOT be recommended due to fatigue or strong pain medication.
If you miss a session during your prescribed treatment, it will extend your treatment course by a day. We strongly recommend that you try the best not to miss a session. However, your Oncologist may rarely give a miss due to falling blood counts or some severe symptoms.
No. You can continue to enjoy contact with family and friends without fear of exposing them to radiation.
Patients with some cancers like head and neck cancer are at risk for reduced oral intake resulting from swallowing difficulties due to ulcerations in mouth and throat due to radiation treatment. International guidelines recommend feeding tube placement when such swallowing difficulties appear to help you get the nutrition you need while your throat heals. This tube is usually temporary and is removed as soon as the patient starts taking adequately orally, which may be a month or more after the completion of the radiation treament
Radiation, as we have discussed affects the dividing cells. There are certain body tissues which are regenerated at a fixed interval in every human being e.g. skin, hair, mucosa (inner covering of mouth, stomach, small intestine) and white blood cells. The normal tissues that are being covered within the treated area also undergo radiation damage at the time of treatment. During treatment these surfaces become raw or while white cells may become low and put you at a risk for developing infections leading to discomfort and/or pain over the affected areas. The radiation oncologist, looking after you, knows the dose and time period of normal tissue injury and also its recovery. He/she sees you during the time of radiation and gives you hints/medication to overcome these side effects.
These side effects are temporary and normally subside within a few days.
Please do see/talk to your doctor once a week to document any normal tissue changes that occur during your treatment. Please do not apply any creams or take any medicines to overcome these side effects by yourself.
Most side effects go away within a few months of ending treatment.
Early and late effects of radiation therapy
• Early side effects happen during or shortly after treatment. These side effects tend to be short-term, mild, and treatable. They’re usually gone within a few weeks after treatment ends. The most common early side effects are fatigue (feeling tired) and skin changes. Other early side effects usually are related to the area being treated, such as hair loss and mouth problems when radiation treatment is given to this area.
• Late side effects can take months or even years to develop. They can occur in any normal tissue in the body that has received radiation. The risk of late side effects depends on the area treated as well as the radiation dose that was used. Newer technologies in treatment planning can help avoid serious long-term side effects.