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Cancer Glossary Cancer Diet Guide Support Groups

Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy is the use of high-energy waves to destroy cancer cells. It is similar to the radiation used in x-rays except in a much higher dose.  You can receive radiation therapy for many types of cancer and It can be used alone or with other forms of treatments such as chemotherapy. 

Preparation For Radiation Therapy:  Often times your radiation therapist will mark the parts of your body that are to be radiated by using a pen or by making a very small dot with a  tatoo pen. This will help the radiation therapist see and measure the area that needs to receive the radiation. When it comes time to receive the radiation, you will lie down on a table and the therapist will tell you whether to lie on your side, stomach or back.  The therapist will put special shields over the areas of your body that are not being radiated.

Radiation Therapy Procedure: Once you are in position, the therapist will leave the room and go into the room where they will start the machine that will shoot a beam of light to the tumor or cancerous area of your body. The procedure is painless and fairly quick.

Types Of Radiation Therapy: There are two main types of radiation therapy that are used today. The first one is external radiation therapy.  This is the most common type where beams of high energy waves are sent to the area of your tumor or cancer.  The second type of radiation therapy is called Internal radiation therapy. This is where a radioactive source is implanted in or near your tumor and gives off high doses of radiation to the tumor.  It is something that can actually be left in your body forever.  After a certain amount of time, the implant will stop giving off radiation.

Recovery Time:  Recovery time depends on the individual and how much radiation they have received. 

Radiation Therapy Side Effects: You may feel extra tired after receiving radiation therapy. You may also experience skin changes or redness around the area that has been radiated, similar to sunburn. You may also have a decrease in appetite. Other side effects depend on the area you have radiated and how much radiation you have received. Some patients have hair loss if their head is being radiated. And for patients that get their neck or chest radiated, they may experience a sore or scratchy throat.  The majority of the side effects will go away once radiation stops. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you experience severe side effects. They may be able to change they type of treatment you are receiving or how often you receive it.

In some cases, they may even be able to stop treatment for a while to allow your body time to recover.  It is a good idea to eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and get some exercise. These are ways to help your body handle the effects of radiation therapy.  If the radiation therapy treatment includes the ovaries or testicles, it’s important to talk to your doctor about how this may affect fertility. There are some risks involved when receiving radiation therapy. You are putting high doses of radiation into your body. There can increase your chance of another type of cancer later on.  For example, if you are receiving radiation to the chest area, this could increase the risk of women receiving breast cancer several years later. But it’s also important to keep in mind that you are receiving the radiation because you need it to destroy your cancer and the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.