Cancer Treatments And Blood Counts
While destroying or damaging cancer cells, treatments may also damage healthy blood cells and the bone marrow the body uses to produce new immune cells. And when treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used together, the combination may lead to conditions that lower blood counts and increase the risk of infection, including:
Treatment Areas And Possible Side Effects
|Part of the body being treated
|Possible side effects
Healthy cells that are damaged during radiation treatment usually recover within a few months after treatment is over. But sometimes people may have side effects that do not improve. Other side effects may show up months or years after radiation therapy is over. These are called late effects. Whether you might have late effects, and what they might be, depends on the part of your body that was treated, other cancer treatments you’ve had, genetics, and other factors, such as smoking.Ask your doctor or nurse which late effects you should watch for. See the section on Late Effects to learn more.
- Reviewed:January 11, 2022
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How Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Speed Up Radiation Recovery
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy makes it possible to minimize and even reverse your radiation symptoms. It uses powerful 100% oxygen at pressures above regular atmospheric pressure to stream oxygen through your bloodstream.
The pressure of HBOT drives oxygen not just into the bloodstream, but also into lymph tissue, bone tissue, red blood cells, and other critical locations. Since oxygen is critical for all healing functions, HBOT can reduce cell death, relieve pain, stimulate new growth of blood vessels, and boost circulation.
As a result, tissues damaged by radiation or suffering from nutrient deficiencies can quickly become revitalized and enhanced. The oxygenation that occurs during HBOT promotes cellular growth that combats the harmful effects of radiation therapy and helps you recover more efficiently.
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Using The Immune System To Treat Lymphoma
Some lymphoma treatments use your immune system to help treat the lymphoma. These include:
- Antibody therapy, which uses man-made antibodies to flag up lymphoma cells and tell your immune system to kill them. Antibody therapy is used to treat many types of lymphoma, usually in combination with chemotherapy. This is known as chemo-immunotherapy.
- Stem cell transplants using donor cells . The donor stem cells build a new immune system. The new immune cells can recognise lymphoma cells as foreign and help to get rid of them.
- Targeted treatments that help your immune system to recognise and attack lymphoma cells .
- CAR-T cell therapy, where your own T cells are genetically modified in a laboratory to recognise lymphoma and kill lymphoma cells.
Many of these treatments are already available for some types of lymphoma, and more are being tested in clinical trials. To find out more about clinical trials, or to search for a trial that might be suitable for you, visit Lymphoma TrialsLink.
Ways To Keep Your Immune System Healthy After Cancer Treatment
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Cancer treatments, especially chemotherapy, can weaken your immune system. While chemotherapy doesnt permanently damage your immunity, it can take anywhere from weeks to months after cancer treatments are over for you to get a healthy immune response back. To help you best recover and heal, discover how to protect yourself from disease during and after cancer treatment with these five recommendations from Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers .
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What Happens After Treatment Finishes
After radiation therapy has finished, your treatment team will tell you how to look after the treatment area and recommend ways to manage side effects. They will also advise who to call if you have any concerns.
Life after cancer treatment can present its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry that every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.
Some people say that they feel pressure to return to normal life. It is important to allow yourself time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a new daily routine at your own pace. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.
Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people who have had cancer, and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.
For more on this, see Living well after cancer.
Questions To Ask The Health Care Team
Learn as much as you can about the potential long-term effects of your cancer treatment from your health care team. You may want to schedule a special appointment to review your treatment summary. This document should include information about your cancer, treatment, and follow-up care. The American Society of Clinical Oncology offers cancer treatment summary forms to store this information.
Consider asking your health care team these questions:
Can you write down which treatment I received?
Am I at risk for specific late effects?
Is there anything I can do to help prevent long-term side effects?
What other specialists should I see to watch for potential late effects?
What signs or symptoms of late effects should I watch for?
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Coping With Hair Loss
Hair loss can be upsetting. Talk to your care team if you find losing your hair difficult to cope with.
They understand how distressing it can be and can support you and discuss your options with you.
You may decide you want to wear a wig if you lose the hair on your head. Synthetic wigs are available free of charge on the NHS for some people, but you’ll usually have to pay for a wig made from real hair.
Other options include headwear such as headscarves.
Effects Of Treatment On Your Immune System
Many chemotherapy drugs damage your bone marrow, where your blood cells develop. This can lead to low blood counts. In particular, you might develop low levels of white blood cells called neutrophils . Neutropenia increases your risk of infection.
Stem cell transplants have a greater effect on the immune system than most other treatments. This is because they involve very high doses of chemotherapy, and sometimes radiotherapy. If you have a stem cell transplant using donor cells , you also have drugs that dampen your immune system to stop the donor cells attacking your own cells. These make your immune system very low. It can take a year or more to recover.
Steroids are often given as part of lymphoma treatment to help fight the lymphoma and to reduce side effects. However, they also lower your immune system. This can increase your risk of infections, particularly viral infections and fungal infections .
Occasionally, some people with lymphoma might need an operation to remove their spleen . Having no spleen can increase your risk of infection with certain bacteria. If youve had a splenectomy, it is important to stay up-to-date with specific vaccinations. Most people whove had a splenectomy take long-term, low-dose antibiotics to help prevent infections.
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Is It Safe For A Cancer Survivor To Receive A Covid
Yes, the , including the booster, is safe for cancer survivors. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends that people with a history of cancer be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
The FDA also approved as a prophylactic for adults who are immunocompromised and who may not be able to mount an immune response to the COVID-19 vaccination.
How Cancer Affects The Immune System
Our immune systems are components of our bodies that fight infections and other conditions. When somebody is immunocompromised, it means their immune systems do not work as effectively as they typically would. There are a lot of reasons that someone could have a reduced immune system, two of which are cancer and cancer treatment.
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Are There Side Effects Of The Combination Approach
There is a slightly higher chance that patients who receive the combined therapy will have rectal irritation or urinary side effects. This is common with prostate cancer radiation therapy because the radiation can damage cells in the tissues surrounding the prostate. But at MSK, we routinely use sophisticated computer-based planning techniques that help us reduce the dose given to normal tissues such as the rectum, bladder, and urethra, lessening the chances of side effects and complications. We have also found that, when treating with the combined approach, using the high-dose-rate brachytherapy compared to low-dose-rate brachytherapy may have less in the way of side effects.
In addition, at MSK, we routinely use a rectal spacer gel, which we inject between the prostate and the rectum while the patient is under mild anesthesia, to create a buffer between these two tissues. By creating this space, we can further reduce the dose of radiation the rectum is exposed to. This leads to fewer side effects for the patient. The rectal spacer gel is biodegradable and dissolves on its own within the body after a few months.
Are There Side Effects Of The Combination Approach To Prostate Cancer Radiation Therapy
When it comes to early stages of disease, patients very frequently do well with either brachytherapy or external beam radiation. Success rates of around 90% or higher can be achieved with either approach. When the disease is somewhat more advanced based on the PSA level, Gleason score, extent of visible disease on magnetic resonance imaging we have learned over the years that higher doses of radiation are critical to achieving better results. Some evidence, including a large trial, suggests that for patients with intermediate- or high-risk prostate cancer, a combined approach using brachytherapy along with external beam radiation may be best compared to standard dose external beam radiation therapy alone.
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If I Have Cancer Now Or Had It In The Past Should I Get A Covid
Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 6 months and older stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccination, including all primary series doses and boosters. That includes most people with underlying medical conditions, including cancer.
CDC recommends most people get the Moderna, Novavax, or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for their primary series. You may get Johnson & Johnsons Janssen vaccine in some situations. Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are authorized to be used for booster doses. People ages 6 months and older should get an , the form of the virus that is most common in the United States.
If, like most people , you have a healthy immune system, CDC recommends that you follow this vaccine schedule:
People with certain cancers and those who are receiving treatment that suppresses the immune system may have a weaker response to COVID-19 vaccines than people whose immune systems are not compromised.
What Should I Do If I Have Symptoms Of An Infection What Treatment Should I Get If I Have Covid
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of an infection, you should get a COVID-19 test. If the test shows that you have COVID-19, isolate yourself from others and call your health care provider.
Visit CDCs website for more information about treatments your health care provider might recommend if you are sick.
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If I Have Cancer Now Or Had It In The Past Am I At Higher Risk Of Severe Covid
If you have cancer, you have a higher risk of severe COVID-19. Other factors that increase the risk for severe COVID-19 include having a weakened immune system , older age, and other medical conditions.
People with blood cancers may be at higher risk of prolonged infection and death from COVID-19 than people with solid tumors. That is because patients with blood cancers often have abnormal or depleted levels of immune cells that produce antibodies against viruses.
NCI is conducting a large study of people with cancer who have COVID-19 to learn more about the risk factors for COVID-19 and to help doctors better manage treatment for people with cancer and COVID-19.
If you had cancer in the past, you also may be at higher risk of severe COVID-19, and you may want to discuss your concerns about COVID-19 with your doctors.
Some Lymphocytes And Antibodies Stayed Weak For 9 Months
For their study, the researchers monitored 88 primary breast cancer patients at various intervals from 2 weeks to 9 months after chemotherapy completion. They also had data on all but 26 of the patients before they started chemotherapy. They monitored levels of various parts of the immune system, including antibodies and a group of white blood cells called lymphocytes.
The data showed that levels of major lymphocytes, such as T cells, B cells and natural killer cells which protect against infection by viruses and bacteria fell significantly following chemotherapy.
The effect was only short term for most types of lymphocyte they returned to pre-chemotherapy levels by the 9-month mark. But the B cells and helper T cells only returned to 65% of their pre-chemotherapy levels by 6-month mark, and they were still at that level 3 months later.
B cells are important for producing antibodies, and T helper cells assist in that task. Antibodies are important for helping the immune system identify and eliminate pathogens like viruses and bacteria. There are different antibodies for different pathogens.
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Targeting Cancer Cells With Advanced Radiation Therapy
Advances in stereotactic radiation therapy and technology are helping the Radiation Oncology team at UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center deliver more effective and less invasive treatments to patients. Nina Sanford, M.D., provides a behind-the-scenes look at the life-changing options.
In general, dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are not tested for effectiveness or safety in the same way as medications or prescribed treatments. So, we can’t fully predict how supplements and vitamins will interact with or reduce the effectiveness of prescribed treatments, including radiation therapy.
A recently published study showed that women with breast cancer who took supplements in addition to treatment had higher risk of their cancer coming back. I also published a study in 2019 showing that nearly a third of patients with cancer who were using complementary and alternative therapies such as dietary supplements did not discuss it with their doctors.
No matter how beneficial a supplement might seem, its important to let your provider know about it, so we can best advise you on weighing potential risks and benefits.
4. Will radiation change the way I look?
Most patients dont need to worry about long-term dermatological issues after radiation treatment, but we generally advise them to use good sun protection and to keep their skin moisturized to minimize risk.
5. Can I continue to work and exercise during treatment?
How Long Does It Take To Recover From Radiation Treatment
Theres no doubt radiation therapy can make the difference between life and death for cancer patients, but unfortunately it often comes at a cost.
Radiation therapy is associated with harsh side effects, many of which dont emerge until months or years after treatment. Acute side effects occur and disappear within 14 days of treatment, but long-term effects like bone degeneration, skin ulcers, and bladder irritation take much longer to manifest.
The complications of radiation therapy are frustrating, painful, and often embarrassing, but using ongoing therapy, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy , can accelerate your radiation therapy recovery in a natural way and stop your symptoms from defining your quality of life.
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What Should Patients Know About Msks Approach To Treating Prostate Cancer
At MSK, we manage prostate cancer in a very comprehensive way, tailored to each patients disease. There is no one specific therapy that is best for everyone.
Our initial assessment includes a carefully evaluated biopsy and a very detailed MRI to show the location of the disease, the integrity or soundness of the capsule surrounding the prostate, and the amount of disease. We will often obtain next-generation imaging and do genomic testing. Then, based on that information and with input from the urologist, the radiation oncologist, and the medical oncologist we can provide a comprehensive recommendation.
The radiotherapy we do here at MSK is state-of-the-art and unparalleled. We are one of the few centers in the world to do MRI-based treatment planning and one of the few centers in the US to offer MRI-guided treatment. When we give brachytherapy, we use computer software that provides us with real-time information about the quality and accuracy of the seed implant during the procedure. It requires a great deal of collaboration with our medical physics team to try to get the most accurate positioning of the prostate during the actual three or four minutes of the treatment.
We make adjustments while the patient is still under anesthesia, so that when the procedure is completed, we have been able to achieve ideal placement of the radiation seeds. This translates into improved outcomes.