What is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation Therapy or Radiotherapy is a type of method to treat cancer. Radiation therapy uses a high-energy beam of x-rays to kill or destroy cancer cells.

Chemotherapy is an alternative method to treat cancer but also affects the other healthy cells, which is not the case in radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy is preferred over chemotherapy because unlike chemotherapy, radiation therapy does not affect the healthy cells. Hence, radiation therapy is preferred over chemotherapy.

Apart from that, the cost of radiation therapy is way cheaper in India than in other developed countries and there are other several reasons such as quality of service, skilled oncologists with many years of experience in radiation therapy and many more for which people from different nations visit India for their treatment.

To know about the price of radiation therapy – click here.

Radiation therapy patients frequently experience skin abnormalities and mild fatigue. Depending on the radiation dose and the area of the body being treated, side effects can differ from person to person.

While some patients experience very few side effects, others experience many. It is impossible to determine who will experience side effects. Dry, itchy, flaky, and blisters are a few examples of skin alterations.

Radiation therapy may affect normal skin cells in the treated region, which results in these alterations. Feeling tired or fatigued is a common way to describe fatigue.

The oncologist may reduce the number of your treatments, alter the radiation sessions or switch the medications you are receiving if you experience negative side effects.

Major side effects of Radiation Therapy

You may also experience the following adverse effects depending on whatever region of your body is being treated with radiation:

  • Diarrhoea  
  • Loss of hair 
  • Changes in the mouth, such as pain, dryness, and trouble consuming food 
  • Vomiting and nausea  
  • The sexual influence (the genitals become sore if the radiation is in that area)  
  • Variations in the blood count

Many of these adverse effects may be gone within two to three months of finishing radiation therapy.  

Side effects that may be visible after a long time

Late side effects may appear after six months or more after radiation therapy is completed.

Infertility, joint difficulties, lymphedema, oral problems, and secondary malignancies are all possible long-term adverse effects.

Because everyone is different, see your doctor or nurse about whether you may be experiencing late side effects and what symptoms to look for.

How do I cope with these side effects of radiation therapy?  

All these side effects can be managed to live a better-quality life. Although these symptoms and changes may persist till the radiation therapy goes on, these symptoms can be managed to stay in control and not cause many problems to the patient.  

Some of the most common ways to control these side effects are listed below:  

  • Make sure you get enough rest. You may feel weaker than usual.
  • Consume a well-balanced, healthy, full of nutrition diet. Your radiation oncologist or nurse may recommend dietary adjustments based on the part of your body receiving radiation.
  • Maintain healthy skin in the treatment region. External radiation therapy may cause the skin in the treated region to become more sensitive or to appear and feel sunburned.
  • Before applying soap, lotions, deodorants, medications, perfumes, cosmetics, talcum powder, or anything else on the treated area, consult your doctor. 
  • Wear loose clothing over the treatment region. Girdles, pantyhose, and close-fitting collars are examples of clothes that should be avoided. Wear loose, soft cotton garments instead. You should not starch your garments. 
  • On treated skin, do not massage, scrape, apply sticky tape or anything like that. If you must bandage your skin, use paper tape or other delicate skin tapes.
  • Do not apply heat or cold to the treatment area such as a heating pad, or ice pack.
  • Keep the treated area out of the sun. Cover your skin with a cloth or anything. Your skin might be especially susceptible to sunlight. Consult your doctor about whether you should use a sunscreen-containing lotion.  

Most adverse effects begin to fade when cancer therapy is completed, and healthy, normal cells have time to regenerate. 

The length of time depends on the patient’s overall health as well as the types and doses of medications and/or radiation they received.  

Cancer therapy, on the other hand, can sometimes induce long-term side effects in a growing body. 

These long-term adverse effects, also known as late effects, might include heart, lung, brain, nerve, kidney, thyroid gland, or reproductive organ damage. 

In certain situations, children and teenagers who have had certain forms of chemotherapy are at a greater risk of developing a second type of cancer later in life.  

Before treatment, the doctor will discuss your child’s risk of late effects and what safeguards may be done.