What Happens During Radiation
The treatment is normally Monday through Friday and lasts about 45 minutes. A lot of time is spent getting your body in the right position, so the radiation hits its desired locations. You lay down on a custom-molded table. A technician positions your body using lasers and measurements. When you are aligned, a mouthguard and wired head case are placed on your body to ensure you do not move. This may seem scary, but this ensures the radiation does not hit healthy areas.
The radiation takes a couple of minutes. You can sense when the radiation hits your body if you receive radiation to your brain. Some patients see colors, others smell specific scents, and some, like me, can taste it it is not very pleasant but it is all normal. If the radiation does not touch your brain, there is no feeling or sensation, almost like it isnt there.
Ways To Prevent Mouth And Dental Problems
Your doctor or nurse may advise you to take these and other steps:
- Get a dental check-up before starting treatment. Before you start treatment, visit your dentist for a cleaning and check-up. Tell the dentist about your cancer treatment and try to get any dental work completed before starting treatment.
- Check and clean your mouth daily.Check your mouth every day for sores or white spots. Tell your doctor or nurse as soon as you notice any changes, such as pain or sensitivity. Rinse your mouth throughout the day with a solution of warm water, baking soda, and salt. Ask your nurse to write down the mouth rinse recipe that is recommended for you. Gently brush your teeth, gums, and tongue after each meal and before going to bed at night. Use a very soft toothbrush or cotton swabs. If you are at risk of bleeding, ask if you should floss.
Healthy Ways To Increase Calories And Protein
Here are some tips for boosting your calorie and protein intake. You can incorporate these into your diet before starting treatment or during the first few weeks. Some of these may not be appropriate for a soft or liquid diet or a sore mouth and throat. Soft and liquid diet suggestions are starred .
Add extra oil to your food:
- Toss pasta with oil before adding sauce.*
- Drizzle oil into soup.*
- Add extra oil when cooking lean meats or vegetables .
- Dip bread in olive oil.
- Drizzle olive oil onto freshly popped popcorn.
- Use oil-based dressings on salads, vegetables, pasta or other grains.
Boost calorie intake with nuts and seeds:
- Have a quarter to half a cup of nuts or trail mix as a snack.
- Carry nuts with you at all times keep some at your desk or beside the couch.
- Sprinkle nuts and seeds into yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, salads, soups or stir-fries.
- Use nuts in muffin and bread recipes.
Add creamy nut butters such as natural peanut, almond or cashew butter to dishes:
- Dissolve nut butters in soups, hot cereals and smoothies.*
- Spread nut butters on sandwiches, fruit or crackers.
- Carry single-serving nut butter packets with you to snack on anytime.*
Increase calories with avocados:
- Add avocado chunks to soups.
- Blend avocado into smoothies.*
- Add avocado slices to a sandwich or salad.
- Add guacamole to Mexican food.
- Snack on half an avocado right out of the shell.*
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Getting Frustrated With Throat Pain Post Radiation
Now 5 months post radiation. 33 treatments of targeted radiation plus chemo therapy for my stage 3 Metastatic Squamish Cell Carcinoma back of tongue R/S. A few weeks ago my throat pain was subsiding enough whereas I finally started eating soft foods with some good success. This week the pain increased to where I have had to go back on liquids. The pain is either on the left side, right side or back of throat. Sometimes the entire throat hurts like strep. The pain is always present but is really bad when I swallow something. Seems to be 2 steps forward and a few back. My oncologist claims that the pain will eventually go away but cannot provide any kind of time frame. Has anyone with similar treatment experienced throat pain for an extended period post radiation? If so, how long did it last? I was getting really excited and optimistic for a couple of weeks while eating very saucy soft foods. I was finally making progress and then things just got worse again. Nobody said this was going to be easy but it gets discouraging when I appear to be making progress just to fall back again.
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Michael Douglas: 31 Days In The Life Of A Throat Cancer Patient
Cancer patient describes losing taste, raw throat and permanent jaw damage.
Sept. 3, 2010& #151 â Scott, a 66-year-old high-tech consultant from Silicon Valley, thought the small lump he detected under his jaw line while shaving about two years ago was caused by allergies.
Scott didnât want his last name used and at first was hesitant to talk about his grueling cancer treatment, which just ended Aug. 23.
âI have a clear sense that some of my customers are suspect of being around people with illness and would bolt if they thought I was fighting cancer,â he said.
Six weeks of radiation â 31 days to be exact â have left Scott with what he describes as a âwooden neck,â no taste buds and a sore throat that makes swallowing anything firmer than an avocado a living hell. But he hoped his story might shed light on what lies ahead for Douglas and perhaps help prepare other throat cancer survivors.
âTongue and throat cancers are very tricky,â he said. âThey have a very high rate of cure if caught early, however the after-effects of the treatment are quite long-lasting and rather extensive.â
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What Caregivers Can Do
- Use a flashlight to check the patients mouth for red areas or white patches, which often become sores. If the patient wears dentures, remove them before looking.
- Offer liquids with a straw, which may help bypass the sores in the mouth.
- Offer soft foods. Mash or puree foods in a blender to make them easier to eat.
- Try coating mouth sores with Anbesol® or Orajel® before meals to numb them during eating, if OK with the cancer care team.
- Offer pain medicines 30 minutes before mealtime.
Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy For Laryngeal Or Hypopharyngeal Cancer
If you are going to get radiation therapy, its important to ask your doctor about the possible side effects, so you know what to expect.
Common side effects depend on where the radiation is aimed and can include:
- Skin problems in the area being treated, ranging from redness to blistering and peeling
- Hearing problems
Most of these side effects slowly go away when treatment is over. Side effects of radiation tend to be worse if chemotherapy is given at the same time. Tell your doctor about any side effects you have because there are often ways to help.
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Eating Tips For People With Difficulty Swallowing
Certain approaches may work better for some people than for others. This depends on the severity and cause of swallowing problems.
Try different types of food and ways of eating. Find what works best. And remember to eat a nutritious diet. Your food should have enough calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Consider these tips:
Eat soft, smooth foods, such as yogurt or pudding.
Mash or blend foods. Or moisten dry foods with broth, sauce, butter, or milk.
Try thickening liquids. Add gelatin, tapioca, baby rice cereal, or commercial thickening products.
Use a straw to drink liquids and soft foods.
Eat cold or room-temperature foods to reduce pain.
Take small bites. Chew slowly and thoroughly.
Eat small, frequent meals.
When To See A Doctor About Throat Pain
Dr. Allan advises using common sense when deciding whether to seek out medical care.
- Have throat pain thats severe, prolonged or not improving, or stretches into your ear.
- Have trouble swallowing, breathing or opening your mouth.
- Are coughing up blood or have blood in your saliva.
- Feel enlarged lymph nodes, or lumps, in your neck.
- Have white patches on the back of your throat or a rash, possible signs of strep throat or scarlet fever.
- Have a high fever.
- Lose your voice for more than a week or two.
And remember, when it comes to illnesses, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Wash your hands often. And if you do get sick, Dr. Allan recommends immediately replacing your toothbrush with a fresh, germ-free one.
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Causes Of Swallowing Problems
One cause is cancer, especially in the mouth, throat, or esophagus. Cancer growing in these parts of the body may narrow these passages.
Difficulty swallowing also happens after some cancer treatments:
Some side effects of cancer treatment may also cause swallowing difficulties:
Fibrosis, which is scarring or stiffness in the throat, esophagus, or mouth.
Infections of the mouth or esophagus. These may happen after radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Swelling or narrowing of the throat or esophagus. This may happen after radiation therapy or surgery.
Physical changes to the mouth, jaws, throat, or esophagus after surgery.
Mucositis, which is soreness, pain, or inflammation in the throat, esophagus, or mouth.
Xerostomia, commonly called dry mouth. This may happen from radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
What Is The Oropharynx
Your oropharynx is the middle part of your throat just beyond your mouth. Your oropharynx includes the back part of your tongue , your tonsils, your soft palate , and the sides and walls of your throat. Your oropharynx makes saliva, keeps your mouth and throat moist and starts to help digest the food you eat.
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What Are The Side Effects Of Brachytherapy
- Frequent urination or urinary retention or burning with urination
- Erectile dysfunction
- Urethral stricture or narrowing of the urethra
- Diarrhea or blood in the stool
- Secondary cancers
For the short time that the seeds are giving off larger amounts of radiation, you should avoid close proximity to children or pregnant women. Make sure to talk with your radiation oncologist or oncology nurse for instruction about radiation safety and exposure for family members or pets.
If you are traveling through an airport following brachytherapy treatment, there is a chance that radiation detectors will be set off. Talk to your radiation oncologist and ask for a note to indicate youve just had radiation treatment.
Why would I choose radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy, including external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy, is an alternative form of treatment for prostate cancer. EBRT may be used after other treatments, such as surgery, to manage cancer that has recurred or is at high risk of recurrence. Radiation therapy has an excellent record of success, providing long-term disease control and survival rates equivalent to other treatments, including surgery.
How should I expect to feel during radiation therapy?
- Increase in the frequency of urination
- Urinary urgency
- Softer and smaller volume bowel movements
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Worsening of hemorrhoids or rectal irritation with occasional scant blood and fatigue
What Are My Treatment Options
Radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy are the three main treatments for head and neck cancer. Either radiation therapy, surgery, or both combined are typically used as the primary treatments with the goal of killing or removing the cancer. Chemotherapy is often used as an additional, or adjuvant, treatment. The optimal combination of the three treatment modalities for a patient with a particular head and neck cancer depends on the site of the cancer and the stage of the disease.
In general, patients with early-stage head and neck cancers are treated with one primary therapyeither radiation therapy or surgery. Patients who have more advanced cancers are often treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy given together. Sometimes, depending on the clinical scenario, patients are treated with surgery followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
If the plan of treatment is radiation therapy alone for the primary cancer, the neck is also treated with radiation therapy. In addition, surgery to remove involved lymph nodes in the neck may be necessary if the amount of disease in the neck nodes is relatively extensive or if the cancer in the neck nodes has not been eliminated completely by the end of the radiation therapy course.
Typically, one of the following radiation therapy procedures may be used to treat Head and Neck Cancer:
What Are Possible Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy
The side effects depend on the site and extent of the head and neck cancer and whether it is done in conjunction with chemotherapy. In general, radiation therapy of the head and neck does not cause nausea, but a few patients do experience nausea during treatment. Many effective antiemetics can relieve this symptom if it should occur. Chemotherapy will cause its own side effects which will be discussed with the medical oncologist.
Generally, the side effects of radiation therapy become apparent abouttwo weeks into the treatment course, when a sore throat, loss of tastesensation, dryness of the mouth and dry skin reactions may occur. Sorethroat is the main side effect that makes the course of radiation therapydifficult.
If your sore throat is severe, you may be unable to take in enough food and liquids by mouth to maintain your weight or avoid dehydration. Your doctors will then insert a feeding tube temporarily into your stomach , which will allow you to maintain adequate nutrition without having to swallow all of the food that you need. Gastrostomy placement is usually an outpatient procedure. It is important, though, to continue swallowing even with a gastrostomy tube in place. Otherwise, your swallowing muscles may weaken this would cause permanent swallowing problems and make it difficult to stop using the gastrostomy tube even after the radiation treatment course is completed.
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Mouth Sores And Problems Swallowing
Many people treated with radiation to the neck and throat area have painful sores in the mouth and throat that can make it very hard to eat and drink. This can lead to weight loss and malnutrition. The sores heal with time after the radiation ends, but some people might continue to have problems swallowing long after treatment ends.
Ask your speech pathologist about swallowing exercises you can do to help keep those muscles working and increase your chance of eating normally after treatment.
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Damage To The Carotid Artery
A person who has had radiation to the neck area might have an increased risk of stroke many years after treatment. This might be because of health problems that were already present before radiation such as narrowing of the artery or an increase in plaque both of which can decrease blood flow . People who smoke are also at risk. Because of this some doctors might schedule regular ultrasounds for you after treatment, to keep an eye on your arteries.
Quit Smoking Before Laryngeal And Hypopharyngeal Cancer Treatment
If you smoke, you should quit. Your cancer might not shrink as well if you smoke during radiation treatment, you might have more side effects, and your benefit from radiation treatment might be less . Smoking after treatment can also increase the chance of getting another new cancer. Quitting smoking for good is the best way to improve your chances of survival. It is never too late to quit. For help, see How To Quit Using Tobacco.
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What To Do If You Have A Sore Mouth
- Brush your teeth. If a toothbrush causes too much discomfort, use an oral swab, which looks like a cotton swab but has a sponge on the end instead of cotton.
- Eat soft foods or soften foods in a blender with some form of liquid and drink them from a cup or through a straw.
- To prevent existing mouth problems from getting worse, avoid hard, crunchy and chewy foods all tobacco products all products containing alcohol lemon or glycerin swabs citrus fruits and foods containing vinegar and spicy, hot or acidic foods and drinks.
- Ice chips may help with mouth pain and/or swelling.
- To relieve mouth pain, mix 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with one measuring cup warm water. Swish it around in your mouth for a few minutes and then spit it out.
- Check with your doctor before you take any medications or products for your symptoms.
- Dont ignore the early signs that you may be developing open mouth sores, such as pain, redness or tenderness. Open sores increase your risk of getting an infection. Ask your doctor if you should get a dental consult.
- Call your doctor if mouth pain prevents you from eating, drinking or swallowing, or if you have a fever of 100.4°F or higher.