Why Does Radiation Therapy Cause Side Effects
In this type of treatment, high doses of radiation therapy are used to destroy cancer cells. Side effects come from damage to healthy cells and tissues near the treatment area.
There have been major research advances in radiation therapy over recent years that have made it more precise. This has reduced this treatment’s side effects compared to radiation therapy techniques used in the past.
Some people experience few or no side effects from radiation therapy. Other people experience more severe side effects. Reactions to radiation therapy often start during the second or third week of treatment. Or, they may last for several weeks after the final treatment. Some side effects may be long term. Talk with your treatment team about what you can expect.
Rectal Spacers Provide Protection During Prostate Cancer Radiation Treatment
The prostate gland, located directly below the bladder, is in front of the rectum. As a result, prostate cancer radiation treatment can damage the rectum. Thankfully, rectal spacers decrease the risk of damage during treatment. Our Houston urologists use spacers like SpaceOAR Hydrogel to help achieve the best results for patients.
Ways To Prevent Or Lessen Edema
Steps you can take to prevent or lessen edema-related swelling include:
- Get comfortable. Wear loose clothing and shoes that are not too tight. When you sit or lie down, raise your feet with a stool or pillows. Avoid crossing your legs when you sit. Talk with your health care team about wearing special stockings, sleeves, or gloves that help with circulation if your swelling is severe.
- Exercise. Moving the part of your body with edema can help. Your doctor may give you specific exercises, including walking, to improve circulation. However, you may be advised not to stand or walk too much at one time.
- Limit salt in your diet. Avoid foods such as chips, bacon, ham, and canned soup. Check food labels for the sodium content. Dont add salt or soy sauce to your food.
- Take your medicine. If your doctor prescribes a medicine called a diuretic, take it exactly as instructed. The medicine will help move the extra fluid and salt out of your body.
Recommended Reading: Financial Help For Cancer Patients
How To Decide Between Radiation And Surgery For Localized Prostate Cancer
If youre like most men whove been diagnosed with prostate cancer, youve been told you have early-stage, localized prostate cancer, meaning the disease hasnt spread beyond the prostate. You may have also been told that you have choices about what you want to do next.
Unless your cancer is aggressive, youve probably been presented with three treatment options: active surveillance, radiation therapy or surgery. If you arent comfortable with active surveillance, or if its not an advisable option for you, you may have to decide between radiation therapy and surgery to treat your cancer.
Many men want to know whats the best treatment for their localized prostate cancer. But its a misconception that you have only one better or safer choice. In most cases, either radiation therapy or surgery is an equally good choice when we look at long-term survival.
Weve heard of some physicians telling men of their prostate cancer diagnosis and asking them to make a treatment decision at the same appointment. But prostate cancer progresses slowly, so most men have time to think about their options and shouldnt feel pressured into making an immediate decision.
How you feel about the big three possible side effects of treatmenturinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction and bowel healthmay be the deciding factor for you.
To help you through the process of making this decision, this article covers:
Dont Miss: Radium 223 Prostate Cancer Side Effects
Will Radiation Therapy Cause My Hair To Fall Out
Only people who get radiation to the scalp or the brain may have hair loss. Others won’t. If it does happen, itâs usually sudden and comes out in clumps. In most cases, your hair will grow back after therapy stops, but it may be thinner or have a different texture.
Some people choose to cut their hair short before treatment begins to make less weight on the hair shaft. If you lose hair on top of your head, be sure to wear a hat or a scarf to protect your scalp from the sun when you go outside. If you decide to buy a wig, ask the doctor to write a prescription for one and check to see if it’s covered by your insurance or is a tax-deductible expense.
Recommended Reading: Where Is Colon Cancer Located
Will I Be Able To Work During Radiation Therapy
Some people can continue to work during radiation therapy treatment, while others may need to reduce their hours or take time off. How much you are able to work depends on the type of radiation therapy you have, how the treatment makes you feel and the type of work you do. Your treatment team will encourage you to be as active as possible, and they can answer your questions about working during treatment.
The Effects Of Breast Cancer On The Body
At first, breast cancer affects the breast area only. You may notice changes in your breasts themselves. Other symptoms arent so obvious until you detect them during a self-exam.
Sometimes your doctor may also see breast cancer tumors on a mammogram or other imaging machine before you notice symptoms.
Like other cancers, breast cancer is broken down into stages. Stage 0 is the earliest stage with the fewest noticeable symptoms. Stage 4 indicates the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
If breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it may cause symptoms in those particular areas, too. Affected areas may include the:
American Cancer Society , the most common sign of breast cancer is a newly formed mass or lump in your breast.
The mass or lump is usually irregularly shaped and painless. However, some cancerous masses can be painful and round in shape. This is why any lump or mass ought to be screened for cancer.
Invasive ductal carcinoma causes lumps and bumps in the breasts. This is a type of breast cancer that forms inside the milk ducts.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer. It makes up about 80 percent of all diagnoses. Its also more likely to spread to other areas of the body.
With breast cancer, your nipples may also undergo some noticeable changes.
Also Check: Metastatic Breast Cancer Access To Care Act
Hair Loss In The Armpit
Radiotherapy to the armpit will make the underarm hair fall out on that side. You will also lose any hair on the area of the chest thats being treated.
Hair in the treatment area usually starts to fall out two to three weeks after treatment has started and it may take several months to grow back. For some people, hair lost from radiotherapy may never grow back.
What Is Proton Therapy For Breast Cancer
In short, proton therapy is a type of that kills cancerous cells. Radiation therapy comes in several forms including photon therapy and proton therapy . Both work to kill cancer by damaging cancer cells DNA.
Standard radiation utilizes photons to deliver radiation all over your body.
Photons are basically beams of X-ray that enter and exit tissue without stopping, explains Victoria Croog, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Johns Hopkins Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C.
This means that theres a risk of damaging healthy tissue in addition to your tumor. However, Dr. Croog notes that techniques for delivering photon therapy have improved a lot over the last few decades, and now have much less late toxicity, meaning complications with toxicity that occur more than three months after treatment.
Protons, on the other hand, have mass and charge to them, so we can make them stop at the end of where the target is, explains Dr. Croog. That means that the radiation can target just the desired area and may produce less damage to nearby tissues. This makes it an attractive therapy choice for cancers like breast cancers which often occurs near vital organs such as the heart or lungs.
If your physician recommends using proton therapy, it’s likely because theres some concern about how close the cancer is to certain tissues that your doctor may want to protect, Dr. Croog says.
Also Check: Pros And Cons Of Radiation Therapy
Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes
Radiotherapy is the single most effective non-surgical treatment of cancer. In terms of overall cost, radiotherapy consumes only 5% of total spending for cancer care while forming a significant part of the treatment plan for almost 40% of patients and is responsible for a cure in about 16%. There has been huge progress in the field to improve effectiveness and minimize side effects. Some techniques that can be used to reduce side effects are:
Chemotherapy For Cervical Cancer
A key treatment for advanced cervical cancer is known as concurrent chemoradiation.
This therapy combines chemotherapy with radiation therapy. The chemo helps the radiation work better, say experts at the American Cancer Society.
The chemo part of the treatment may be given during the course of radiation. Drugs used in this treatment include:
- Cisplatin, given weekly about 4 hours prior to radiation
- 5-fluorouracil , given along with cisplatin every 4 weeks during radiation
Other chemotherapy drugs may also be used to treat advanced cervical cancer. These include:
Read Also: How Long Does Radiation Treatment Last
Who Is The Ideal Candidate For Proton Radiation For Breast Cancer
Proton therapy isnt something that everyone with breast cancer needs. I think it’s worth discussing proton therapy with a radiation oncologist, keeping in mind that most breast cancer could be treated incredibly well and incredibly safely with standard photon-based treatments, says Dr. Bakst.
There also are some people who may be ideal candidates for proton therapy, including the below groups:
People with cancers in close proximity to the heart or lungs, including left-sided breast cancer or cancer that calls for comprehensive lymph node radiation, notes Dr. Croog.
Those with challenging anatomy. For example, if someones heart is very close to their chest wall, and also close to the tumor, a doctor may suggest proton therapy.
Those with recurrent disease. If you have already had traditional radiation and your cancer is back, your doctor may consider proton therapy, says Dr. Bakst, potentially minimizing the risk of damage to other tissues.
Is Radiation Therapy Safe For Older Adults
Yes. Both external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy are safe for older adults. Radiation can be an important part of improving the quality of life for older adults with cancer.
Sometimes the cancer is not curable, or surgery is not an option. Radiation can help shrink the tumor to reduce symptoms.
Recommended Reading: How Common Is Liver Cancer
If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Abdomen
If you are getting radiation to your stomach or some part of the abdomen , you may have side effects such as:
Eating or avoiding certain foods can help with some of these problems, so diet planning is an important part of radiation treatment of the stomach or abdomen. Ask your cancer care team about what you can expect, and what medicines you should take to help relieve these problems. Check with your cancer care team about any home remedies or over-the-counter drugs youre thinking about using.
These problems should get better when treatment is over.
Some people feel queasy for a few hours right after radiation therapy. If you have this problem, try not eating for a couple of hours before and after your treatment. You may handle the treatment better on an empty stomach. If the problem doesnt go away, ask your cancer care team about medicines to help prevent and treat nausea. Be sure to take the medicine exactly as you are told to do.
If you notice nausea before your treatment, try eating a bland snack, like toast or crackers, and try to relax as much as possible. See Nausea and Vomiting to get tips to help an upset stomach and learn more about how to manage these side effects.
Many people have diarrhea at some point after starting radiation therapy to the abdomen. Your cancer care team may prescribe medicines or give you special instructions to help with the problem. Diet changes may also be recommended, such as:
Placing Spacers Before Prostate Cancer Radiation Treatment
Before patients begin radiation treatment for prostate cancer, they undergo the rectal spacer placement procedure. The minimally invasive procedure takes about 30 minutes.
Our Houston urologists carefully place a needle in the space between the rectum and the prostate. They then inject a safe, water-based gel agent. The agent rapidly expands and solidifies into a temporary gel. This gel provides space and protection from prostate cancer radiation treatment.
Also Check: Alvin J Siteman Cancer Center
Why People With Cancer Receive Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is used to treat cancer and ease cancer symptoms.
When used to treat cancer, radiation therapy can cure cancer, prevent it from returning, or stop or slow its growth.
When treatments are used to ease symptoms, they are known as palliative treatments. External beam radiation may shrink tumors to treat pain and other problems caused by the tumor, such as trouble breathing or loss of bowel and bladder control. Pain from cancer that has spread to the bone can be treated with systemic radiation therapy drugs called radiopharmaceuticals.
Talking With Your Health Care Team About Fatigue
Prepare for your visit by making a list of questions to ask. Consider adding these questions to your list:
- What is most likely causing my fatigue?
- What should I keep track of and share so we can develop a plan to help me feel better?
- What types of exercise do you recommend for me?
- How much rest should I have during the day? How much sleep should I get at night?
- What food and drinks are best for me?
- Are there treatments or medicines that could help me feel better?
You May Like: Can You Have Dental Work Done While On Chemo
Changes In Your Blood
Some treatments can reduce the number of normal blood cells produced by your bone marrow . This includes some types of radioisotope therapy. Sometimes, it can also happen with external beam radiotherapy, especially if you have chemotherapy at the same time.
Your blood cell levels are unlikely to cause problems and they will improve after your treatment finishes. Some people need treatment if the level of certain types of blood cells is too low.
Your team will arrange any blood tests you need during and after your treatment. Always tell your team if you have any bruising or bleeding that you cannot explain. This includes:
What Side Effects Will I Have
During your treatment, radiation must pass through your skin. You may notice some skin changes in the area exposed to radiation.
Your skin may become red, swollen, warm, and sensitive, as if you have a sunburn. It may peel or become moist and tender. Depending on the dose of radiation you receive, you may notice hair loss or less sweat within the treated area.
These skin reactions are common and temporary. Theyâll fade gradually within 4 to 6 weeks after you finish your treatment. If you notice any skin changes outside the treated area, tell your doctor or nurse.
Long-term side effects, which can last up to a year or longer after treatment, may include:
- A slight darkening of the skin
- Skins feels more or less sensitive
- A thickening of tissue or skin
Other possible side effects of external beam radiation therapy are:
Tiredness. Your fatigue might not lift until a few weeks or months after you finish getting radiation therapy.
Lymphedema. If radiation therapy damages the lymph nodes around your prostate gland, the fluid can build up in your legs or genital area. That can bring on swelling and pain. Physical therapy can usually treat lymphedema, but it might not go away completely.
Urinary problems. Radiation can irritate your bladder, and that could lead to a condition called radiation cystitis. You might:
- Have to pee more often
- Feel like it burns when you pee
- Notice blood in your urine
Don’t Miss: Survival Rates For Bladder Cancer
New Gel Reduces Side Effects Of Prostate Cancer Treatment
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Radiation therapy is a popular and effective treatment for many men with prostate cancer, and now a temporary gel offers greater protection for organs at risk during treatments.
Treating prostate cancer with radiation therapy can cause unintended injury to adjacent, healthy tissue, which can lead to bowel and urinary problems, as well as erectile dysfunction, said Daniel Krauss, M.D., a Beaumont radiation oncologist who specializes in radiotherapy for prostate and bladder cancers. There is now a new technique in which a temporary gel is injected through a small needle between the prostate and rectum. The gel pushes the rectum farther from the path of the radiation treatment beam. Harmful rectal doses of radiation can be almost nil.
The minimally invasive gel technique is now available at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak for men having radiation therapy for prostate cancer.
The absorbable gel, called SpaceOAR hydrogel, creates a barrier and separates the rectum and the prostate to protect the rectum and reduce injury during radiation treatments. Patients who choose the new gel technique, receive a local or general anesthesia in an outpatient setting. The gel is injected as a liquid and then solidifies, remaining in place for three months during prostate radiotherapy. It then liquefies, is absorbed by the body and cleared in the patients urine.