Do Radiation Side Effects Get Worse? What to Expect From Your Treatment
Cancer, of any kind, is a battle none of us want to fight. However, it can be helpful to know what to expect from your treatment; that way, you are prepared for anything that comes your way. Let’s take a look at some radiation side effects, what happens during radiation therapy, and how long some of these side effects may last.
What Happens During Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy uses ionizing radiation (the same technology used in x-ray and CT scanners) to target cells in the body for destruction. Generally, the cancerous mass is specifically selected and beamed with radiation; cancerous cells usually are more susceptible to radiation due to their rapid rate of reproduction.
Many radiology patients wonder: how does radiation treatment affect the body? Simply stated, there is usually a margin of healthy tissue that gets caught in the radiation crossfire. Since other healthy cells— like epithelial cells— also reproduce quickly, there can be some unintentional damage to healthy tissue. This is where most of your symptoms will come from.
It’s not a secret that radiation therapy is going to be difficult. However, there are some tips and tricks that you can use to help the process go as smoothly as possible. First and foremost, listen to your oncologist’s instructions on how to prepare. They’ve been doing this a long time and know how to get you the best results.
Tips For Your Radiation Appointments
- Wear comfy clothes
- Practice breathing techniques & meditation beforehand
- Bring distractions
- Abstain from eating right before to prevent nausea
- Have a support system nearby
Radiation Side Effects
Early-Onset Symptoms: Fatigue, Nausea, and Vomiting
After your first couple of radiation appointments, you will likely experience fatigue, nausea, and sometimes vomiting. If the cancer being targeted is in your abdomen, nausea and vomiting are much more likely to occur. As your treatment progresses, you will likely experience more and more symptoms.
Medium-Onset Symptoms: Skin Rashes, Low Blood Count, and Hair Loss
After a week or more of treatment, the likelihood of destroying your cancer increases— as does the likelihood of destroying healthy cells. Epithelial cells and blood cells are usually the first to notice a problem, resulting in rashes, skin sensitivity, low blood count, and more side effects.
Bear in mind that you and your doctor have weighed the risks and benefits associated with your treatment plan. Radiation exposure can cause long-term damage to your body, including lung scarring, heart scarring, fertility problems, and even secondary cancer.
How Long Do Radiation Side Effects Last?
The majority of your negative side effects will usually clear up within a few weeks of your last treatment appointment. Any long-term symptoms will be irreversible and may not become apparent until months or years after your treatment.
How Do I Manage My Radiation Side Effects?
There are many options available to help manage your symptoms, but you have to make sure you inform your doctor about them so that he or she can help you. When it comes to skin problems associated with radiation therapy, keep a radiation burn cream— like our Skin Recovery Cream— on hand for application after each treatment session.