Radiotherapy is a treatment used to treat cancer. It involves high-energy radiation. Radiotherapy is a very common treatment and almost half of cancer sufferers will have this treatment. Radiotherapy is not only used to treat cancer, it is also used to treat Benign (non-cancerous) tumours and also Thyroid disease and blood disorders.
What is Radiotherapy and what does it involve?
Radiotherapy is a high-energy treatment which can be used alongside Chemotherapy to try to treat cancers. This treatment can also be used to control symptoms for someone who has incurable cancer. Radiotherapy is commonly used before surgical procedures to shrink tumours and also used after surgery to kill any traces of the tumour left behind. There are 2 ways Radiotherapy can be given:
This treatment uses a machine called a Linear Accelerator. This machine focuses on the affected area by using high-energy radiation beams. This method is painless and is a treatment which requires daily doses or a number of weeks.
This treatment wither involves swallowing/injecting a radioactive liquid or having a small radioactive material (Brachytherapy) placed in your body by the affected area. This treatment is temporary and painless however some people find that the insertion of the Radioactive material to be quite uncomfortable. Depending on the size and type of cancer you have will determine the length of your radiation treatment.
What are the side affects?
Generally Radiation treatment only affects the area which is being treated. Therefore there are many side affects depending on the area of your body which is being treated. Below is a few side affects of radiation to different parts of your body:
Having radiation in the Genital/Pelvic area can have long term affects. This type of radiation can cause permanent Infertility.
Hair loss usually occurs when your having radiation to the Neck or head. Unlike chemotherapy, Radiation only affects the part of your head which is being treated. Your hair should start to grow back a few weeks after your treatment ends.
You can get Diarrhoea if you are having radiation in your abdomen or pelvic area.Generally your Diarrhoea will get worse as your treatment progresses however there is medication to help. Your Diarrhoea should get better a few weeks after your treatment.
Discomfort when swallowing
This is caused by radiation to the chest as your tube which your food passes through (oesophagus) becomes temporarily inflamed. This can be very uncomfortable and it is advised for you to stay away from spicy foods and acidic drinks and spirits.
Your skin may become sore where you are being treated. Some peoples skin peels like you would if you got sunburned. It is advised for you to not wet shave the affected area and to wear loose clothing.
This usually occurs towards the end of your treatment. Make your you take regular naps in order to have a substantial amount of energy. You may have a shortage of red blood cells (anaemia) which will make you tired. You may need to have a blood transfusion.
Most people are not sick during their radiation treatment however if you are having the treatment to your abdominal area it can make you very sick. Anti-sickness medication is available from your doctor.