How Does Radiation For Cancer Affect The Body – Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation work by destroying cancer cells. In the process, they can also damage healthy cells and cause side effects. Although everyone’s experience is different, it can be helpful to know what the most common side effects of cancer treatment are and how to deal with them.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy fight cancer by destroying cancer cells. Although chemotherapy and radiation are designed to kill cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue, these treatments sometimes damage or destroy normal cells. Damage to normal cells can cause side effects.
- 1 How Does Radiation For Cancer Affect The Body
- 2 Chemo Vs Radiation? Differences, Side Effects, And More
- 3 What Is Whole Brain Radiation Therapy?
How Does Radiation For Cancer Affect The Body
The good news is that while damaged cancer cells die, normal cells can repair themselves. Most people receive chemotherapy and radiation in several sessions to allow normal cells to repair themselves. By giving your body enough time to recover, you can reduce side effects.
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In the meantime, knowing what side effects to expect and how to deal with them can help you cope more effectively with your cancer treatment.
Your experience with chemotherapy and radiation will depend on your overall health and the specific types of chemotherapy drugs or radiation therapy you receive. It also depends on whether you are receiving a combination of treatments.
You may experience some or none of the following side effects. Your oncologist—the cancer specialist responsible for your treatment—is your best resource for explaining what side effects to expect based on your medical condition and treatment plan.
Fatigue is the most common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. During treatment, your body not only fights the cancer, but also works to repair the cell damage caused by the treatment. As a result, you may feel too exhausted to carry out your usual activities. Fatigue can come on gradually, giving you time to adjust. It can start suddenly, requiring a quick adjustment.
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In particular, chemotherapy can reduce the number of red blood cells and lead to anemia. Along with anemia, you may experience extreme fatigue along with other symptoms such as shortness of breath and a fast heartbeat (palpitations). If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Hair follicles are sensitive to radiation and chemotherapy. Although you may experience permanent hair loss, the hair will usually grow back. It usually starts growing again within two to three months after chemotherapy and three to six months after radiation therapy. The texture and color of your hair may vary after regrowth.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause skin irritation, itching, dryness, redness and swelling. These treatments can also cause discoloration or darkening of the skin. Radiation therapy can cause skin ulcers that you need to monitor for infection. These ulcers (and other skin changes) only appear on the parts of the body that have been irradiated. Skin rashes, including hand-foot syndrome, are common during chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can also make you sensitive to sunlight, increasing your risk of sunburn.
Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The type of medicine you take, how it is given, the dose and how often you take it all affect whether you develop these symptoms. If this is not done, you may lose too much water (dehydration) or other nutrients that you need.
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Nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy is called chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). Chemotherapy can cause temporary lactose intolerance. If you have more diarrhea or loose stools with milk or milk products, you may want to limit or eliminate those foods or drinks until you have regular stools.
You are more likely to experience nausea and vomiting with radiation therapy aimed at your brain or abdomen. You are more likely to have diarrhea and other forms of gastrointestinal discomfort (gas, cramping, bloating) with radiation directed at your pelvis.
Side effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can cause loss of appetite. However, you may lose your appetite or have trouble eating for other reasons.
It is common to have difficulty thinking, concentrating or remembering during cancer treatment. People tend to have problems especially with short-term memory. Regardless of your treatment, the stress of a cancer diagnosis can make it difficult to think and concentrate. You may be able to go about your routine, but it may take longer than before.
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The treatment can also affect your brain function. Radiation therapy to your head can affect your ability to process information. Chemotherapy brain fog or “chemo brain” is a common occurrence in people receiving chemotherapy. In addition to having more time to think, remember and complete tasks, you may have trouble sleeping and lose your appetite. Increased daily stress can lead to depression, which can worsen symptoms.
Radiation to your pelvis and some chemotherapy drugs can irritate your bladder, making it difficult to urinate or empty your bladder. You may experience pain or burning when urinating, or you may feel a constant urge to go to the bathroom.
It is important to watch for symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), such as pelvic pain, cloudy or bloody urine, and fever. STIs are always unpleasant, but they can be serious during cancer treatment. Report symptoms to your doctor immediately.
The stress of a cancer diagnosis and treatment can affect your sex life. Factors that affect desire — such as fatigue, hormonal changes, or changes in your self-image — may also play a role in your ability to have children after cancer treatment.
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Side effects often refer to which areas of your body and which body systems will be most affected by the treatment.
Radiation side effects are often site-specific, meaning that you are most likely to experience side effects in the parts of your body that are exposed to X-rays. For example, you are more likely to notice hair loss or skin changes on the part of your body that is exposed to radiation. Fatigue is common regardless of the part of the body being treated.
Chemotherapy targets fast-growing cells in your body. This includes cancer cells, but other cells that tend to grow rapidly can also be affected. Symptoms often depend on the type of cells affected.
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You may experience side effects within a few hours of treatment – as with some chemotherapies – which will gradually improve. Or you may not experience side effects until you’ve had several treatments, as is sometimes the case with radiation. Talk to your doctor about when you’re most likely to experience side effects based on the type and treatment plan.
Most side effects disappear within a few months after stopping treatment. However, some side effects don’t start until months or years after treatment. In some cases, side effects can be permanent. Ask your oncologist what to expect. Ask them to connect you with palliative care resources to help you manage your cancer symptoms and side effects of treatment.
Each person’s experience with cancer treatment is unique. Some common side effects may not apply to you, or you may experience a side effect not listed here. Your doctor can tell you which symptoms to look out for. However, only you know how you feel. Let your oncologist and palliative care team know what you are going through. They can recommend ways to manage side effects. Your oncologist can adjust your treatment if necessary. Pelvic air therapy using the Varian Clinac iX linear accelerator. Lasers and a pattern under the foot are used to determine the exact position.
Radiation therapy or radiotherapy, often abbreviated RT, RTx or XRT, is treatment using ionizing radiation, generally given as part of cancer therapy to kill or control the growth of malignant cells. It is usually delivered using a linear particle accelerator. Radiation therapy can be curative for many types of cancer if they are localized to one part of the body and have not spread to other parts of the body. It can also be used as part of adjuvant therapy to prevent tumor recurrence after surgery to remove a primary malignant tumor (for example, early stage breast cancer). Radiation therapy works synergistically with chemotherapy and is used before, during and after chemotherapy for sensitive cancers. The subspecialty of oncology that deals with radiotherapy is called radiation oncology. The doctor working in this subspecialty is a radiation oncologist.
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Radiation therapy is usually applied to cancerous tumors because of its ability to control cell growth. Ionizing radiation works by damaging the DNA of cancerous tissue, leading to cell death. To spare normal tissue (such as skin or organs through which radiation must pass when treating a tumor), shaped beams of radiation are directed from multiple exposure angles to intersect in the tumor and deliver a much higher absorbed dose there than in the surrounding healthy tissue . . In addition to the tumor itself, the radiation field may also include draining lymph nodes if they are clinically or radiologically associated with the tumor or if there is a suspected risk of subclinical malignant spread. It is necessary to include a margin of normal tissue around the tumor to allow for uncertainties in the everyday environment and internal movement of the tumor. These uncertainties can be caused by internal motion (e.g.
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