During the therapy, a machine is used to administer the beams to the target location. This machine is called a linear accelerator, and is used to deliver radioactive beams to the tumor’s location from different angles.
The treatment may continue in a series of sessions. Each session may last a few days each, with intervals of several weeks in between sessions to allow the healthy cells to recuperate.
Radiation therapy side effects
Side effects occur depending on location of the cancer, its type, the radiation dose used, and the patient’s overall health.
Radiation therapy side effects: Early side effects
The patient may experience short-term treatable side effects. These symptoms usually disappear after treatment. These side effects include the following:
- Sore skin
- Sore mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Hair loss
The treatment may also affect the patient emotionally. Contacting a support group may help.
Radiation therapy side effects: Later side effects
Radiation treatment may have long-term effects on body tissues. These side effects take time to develop. To prevent these, the treatment planning should be done carefully. The patient should have an in-depth discussion with their doctor regarding these possible long-term side effects.
The following are the possible long-term side effects:
- In the case of radiation therapy to the brain, long-term affects may include loss of memory, stroke-like symptoms, and poor brain function.
- Radiation therapy to the breast may result to less skin sensitivity and larger pores. The size of the breast may also change.
- Radiation therapy to the chest may produce heart complications, such as damage to the arteries and the heart valves.
- Chest radiation therapy may also cause inflammation of the lungs.
- Radiation to the pelvis may cause radiation cystitis, urinary incontinence, and fistulas.
- In women, menstrual periods may stop permanently.
- In men, radiation therapy may reduce number and quality of sperm cells.
In treating cancer, the radiation therapy procedures and side effects may be intimidating.
Early side effects include fatigue, sore skin, sore mouth, and hair loss. Long-term side effects may include damage to the tissues and other such complications.
Planning and consultation with the medical team may help patients feel more confident in their treatment.
Learn more about Cancer here.
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