Radiation Therapy FAQs

What is radiation therapy? 

Radiotherapy (radiation therapy) is a therapeutic technique consisting in the use of ionizing radiation (subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves) to kill cancer cells. Unlike chemotherapy, radiotherapy is a local treatment; the radiation dose is delivered with precision into the volume of the tumor and very small surrounding healthy tissue.

I was diagnosed with cancer, my doctor recommend chemotherapy; will I be healed? 

Your chances of recovery depend on several factors such as tumor stage, your health status, age and lifestyle. However, thanks to advances in medical science, cancers that were formerly incurable are now well cured by radiotherapy when discovered early. To increase your chances of healing, your doctor may combine radiation therapy with other treatments: surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, etc.

Is radiotherapy painful ? 

No. Radiation therapy is completely painless

For what type of cancer radiation therapy is used? 

Majority of cancers can be treated by radiation therapy. The therapy can be used as a curative, palliative or symptomatic treatment. In fact, detected early, certain cancers can be successfully eradicated by radiation therapy. Some of cancers that tend to respond well to radiation therapy include:

  • breast cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • lung cancer
  • co lon-rectum cancer
  • stomach cancer
  • brain cancer
  • cervical cancer
  • laryngeal cancer
  • pancreas cancer
  • skin cancer
  • uterus cancer
  • soft tissue sarcomas
  • leukemia
  • Lymphoma.

Is there a special procedure to follow? 

During any cancer treatment, it is important to eat plenty of fruits, cruciferous vegetables and protein, mostly vegetable protein: sweet potato, lentils, yams, and others. However, diet recommended by your nutritionist during radiotherapy depends greatly on the type of cancer you have and the region that is irradiated. For example, irradiation of the throat or esophagus may require the consumption of foods that slide slowly into your throat to prevent irritation of the irradiated region. In the case of irradiation of the abdomen, it is necessary to avoid spicy foods and foods rich in gluten: bread, cakes, flour, etc.

Are there precautions to take?  

Yes. Like any cancer treatment, there are precautions to take during and after radiation therapy. The measures tend to differ from one patient to and other, and depending on the region irradiated; talk to your doctor for more information. For general care during radiotherapy, “Radiotherapy Care”

May i sunbathe while undergoing radiotherapy? 

Although there is no reason to stay indoors all the times, it is safe to avoid sunbathing or prolonged sun exposure during the treatment; radiation therapy tends increase sensitivity to the sun somewhat.  During radiotherapy and even the following years, it is strongly recommended to not expose the irradiated regions to the sun. In fact, prolonged sun exposure can lead to serious skin problems, including skin cancer.

Are side effects of radiotherapy temporary or definitive?  

The most common side effects of radiotherapy last a few months, rarely years after treatment. However, radiation to certain parts of the body can cause permanent side effects. For example, irradiation to the nose, mouth or throat can lead to dry mouth (xerostomia) for life.

Does radiotherapy cause hair loss? 

No. Unless it is a radiation therapy of the skull  .

Is it recommended to get vaccinated during radiation therapy?  

Like most cancer treatments, radiation therapy tends to weaken the immune system and makes you vulnerable to infection. Therefore, vaccination and taking immunosuppressant agents are contraindicated during and after radiotherapy. For more information, you can talk to your doctor.

What products can I wash the irradiated area?  

It is necessary to avoid using irritating cosmetic products in the radiotherapy field. You can wash the irradiated area with clear water and natural soap without forcedly rubbing the skin. Do not use perfume, deodorant or / and certain synthetic products in the irradiated region. Wear cotton clothing, preferably less tight. It is also recommended to wear sunscreen (sunblock or sun cream) on the skin exposed to sunlight to help protect yourself against sunburn. For information, visit our skin care section.

Can I drive or work a session of radiotherapy or during the entire therapy? 

Provided that your doctor has not recommended you otherwise and you feel ok to do so, you are free to work or/and drive. In fact, it is important after the treatment that you do not stay inactive thinking about the disease; this can cause more harm than good. After radiation therapy, resume your normal life.

Do I have to stay in hospital for the therapy? 

Most patients travel to hospital for the treatment; if for any reason you can’t do so, your oncologist will recommend you to be admitted.

How long does radiotherapy last?  

The total length of radiotherapy depends on the total dose to be given; the dosage depends on the type of cancer you have (the lesion to be irradiated) and its severity. In general, radiation therapy lasts several days to 7 weeks. It is essential that you receive the entire treatment without interruption.

How long does each session of external radiation therapy last?  

Each radiotherapy session lasts 15 to 30 minutes.  Usually, radiation therapy is delivered at a rate of one session per day, 5 or 6 days a week. In rare cases, two sessions can be administered per day.

Should I take precautions before each therapy session?  

Radiation therapy requires no special preparation, but it is not recommended to put cream, perfume and other cosmetic products on the treated area. If you have to take specific precautions, your physician will tell you about them.

Can radiation therapy make you radioactive?

It depends on the type of radiation therapy you have. External radiation treatment cannot make you radioactive. Internal radiation therapy involving sealed implants, however, can travel throughout your body and makes your saliva, sweat, and urine radioactive. You may need to avoid being around other people for a while. For more information, talk to your doctor or nurse.

Leave a Reply