Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy
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The effect of radiation therapy largely depends upon how often and for which body part the therapy is given.Those who receive chemotherapy, before, after or during radiation therapy, may have side effects that are more severe.
The side effects that are generally experienced after radiation therapy are:
Most patients experience fatigue during the course of therapy. But the degree of fatigue affects a person depending on his/her level of energy. Those who receive several weeks of treatment may experience fatigue frequently. For most patients undergoing radiation therapy, fatigue is mild.
However, your doctor will advise you to take proper rest and limit your activity. Try to get uninterrupted sleep at night and eat healthy nutritious diet to increase your energy level.
During your treatment, you may go through some skin changes in the area that are exposed to radiation. The skin may appear red, sensitive and tanned just like sunburn. You may experience skin irritation and dryness of skin.
Depending on the dose of radiation, your skin may peel, become dry and itchy or you can even have blisters as radiation therapy damages healthy skin cells of the treatment area. Treated area should be cleaned gently with mild soap and water and pat dried with a soft towel.
Take special care of your skin during the therapy. Your doctor can prescribe special creams and gels for improving the condition of the skin. You must avoid scented body lotions and perfumes, and exposing the affected area directly to sun. Stay away from wearing tight fitting clothes. All this reactions on your skin are temporary and will subside gradually within 2-3 weeks after the completion of treatment.
Loss Of Appetite
Loss of appetite is quite common during radiation therapy which leads to fatigue and nutritional deficiencies. You have to take especial care of your diet. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables to get essential vitamins and nutrients. Eat small meals throughout the day to increase your energy level. Appetite will increase after the completion of treatment gradually.
There can be some other possible side effects, depending on the type of cancer you are suffering from and on which part of the body you are undergoing the treatment. Some of them are:
Hair loss generally occurs when a person is treated for head or neck cancer and not for other parts of the body. But with higher dose of radiation, some people lose hair in clumps, which is very upsetting. Hair loss is mostly temporary. After the end of the treatment, the hair usually grows back, though the texture and color of your hair may not be the same.
Some patients can experience temporary hearing problem due to hardening of the wax in their ears, if they receive therapy near the ear area. If you experience such difficulty, consult your physician.
Nausea or Vomiting
Few patients suffer from nausea and vomiting when they receive radiation therapy in combination with chemotherapy.
Decreases In Blood Count
Another possible side effect of radiation therapy can be lowering of platelets and white blood cells which make the immune system weak and vulnerable to bacteria and virus. So, regular tests should be done to check the blood counts.
Side effect of radiation therapy shows its effect according to the nature of treatment. For example, when a person receives therapy for neck and head there can be risk of dental problem such as cavities and radiation for pelvis can produce fertility problem. It is essential to ask your physician about the possible side effects and how to prevent them before going for radiation therapy.
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