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Radiation Treatment

How is radiation therapy used in cancer treatments?

Radiation therapy can be used at various times during your cancer treatment.

  • Before surgery, to help reduce the size of a cancerous tumor.
  • During surgery, to send a large dose of radiation directly at a tumor.
  • After surgery, to stop the growth of any cancer cells that might remain.
  • In combination with other cancer treatments to destroy cancer cells.

Side effects of radiation therapy

Depending on the treatment area and the dose being given, the types of side effects will be different. Keep in mind that each person will still react differently.

Any part of the body – some common side effects include: hair loss and skin irritation at treatment site and fatigue.

Neck and head – common side effects include: dry mouth, thick saliva, earaches, sore jaw, nausea, difficulty in swallowing and changes in palate.

Chest – common side effects include: cough, shortness of breath and difficulty swallowing.

Abdomen – side effects here are upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea.

Pelvis – there are more side effects experienced with this treatment location. They include: upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, bladder irritation, needing to go to the bathroom a lot, and possible sexual dysfunction.

Is radiation therapy dangerous for friends and family?

Although there are many different ways in which the radiation therapy can be administered, including doses over a long period of time, the body does not become radioactive. The radiation only affects the person receiving the treatment. Therefore it is safe for the family and friends of the patient.

Where does a person receive radiation therapy?

In most cases, external radiation treatments can be done as an outpatient of a major hospital or cancer center. Not all hospitals are equipped with this ability, so it helps to check this out ahead of time. Internal radiation therapy may require hospitalization for a few days.

Who gives the radiation therapy?

A radiation oncologist, a doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer, will prescribe the type and amount of treatment that a person receives. This doctor works with several other specialists as part of your health care team. This team can include any of the following medical personnel; radiation physicist, dosimetric specialist, radiation therapist, radiation nurse, radiologist, dietitian, radiation oncologist, physical therapist, social worker and possibly other health care professionals.


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