Monday, March 30, 2009 | 4:24 am

Radiation therapy is also often given after cancer surgery. Just as for surgery and chemotherapy, very little information may be provided with regard to what to expect. Below are some common questions and answers about radiation treatment. Refer to Chapter 13, Understanding Radiation Therapy, for an in-depth look at this treatment and further helpful information on what to expect.

Q. What is Radiation Therapy?

A. Radiation therapy involves using large amounts of ionizing radiation (such as x-rays, radium or radioactive cobalt) for short periods of time on the cancerous area of the body. This process involves bombarding the malignant cells with radiation at the specific site to destroy the harmful cancer cells. It is performed in a number of different ways according to the type and severity of the cancer being treated. For instance, in endometrial cancer, some doctors insert a toothpick-like device into the vagina and pass radium through for 48 hours.

In other forms of cancer, tattoos are placed on the body, the radiologists exit the room to avoid exposure and the patient is given radiation therapy for 30 seconds over a number of continuous days.

Q. How does radiation therapy make you feel?

A. Radiation therapy can be quite a degrading experience for the person involved. Many people who have undergone radiation therapy feel like rag dolls being played with. The nurses place permanent tattoos on the body, which may take years to disappear in some cases. The body is dosed with large amounts of radiation which in most cases lead to long-term side effects. Psychologically it is one of the hardest forms of therapy to deal with and overcome, as the physical and mental side effects are often long term and in some cases, permanent.

Q. Will I have permanent scarring from Radiation Therapy?

A. YES. In most cases. Because radiation affects all rapidly proliferating cells it usually causes some adverse effects. Tissues that are most frequently affected are the skin, the mucosal lining of the gastro-intestinal tract and bone marrow. Radiation tends to kill the affected and surrounding tissues. The tissue may experience permanent blackening or have a burnt appearance.

I know of one case of a man who had radiation therapy for twenty-one days in a row and came through with no permanent or noticeable burning. He was taking large doses of the nutrient lycopene, which is believed to prevent burning. Radiation can induce bone marrow depression, leading to a decrease in white blood cells and platelet production. This can increase the risk of infections and bleeding.

Q. Are there any other side effects caused by this treatment?

A. YES. As in chemotherapy, there are similar side effects of nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, lassitude (lack of energy), temporary hair loss and sore throat or mouth, depending on the area being zapped with radiation. Drugs are given to counteract these side effects, which generally lead to more side effects. There are many natural alternatives available to assist with preventing these symptoms. Loss of tissue sensation in the area is common and in some cases it may take years to return to normal. Taking the right nutritional supplements, eating a nutrient-packed diet, exercise and a positive attitude will rectify this condition faster than expected.

Conventional cancer treatment is not without risks or harmful side effects. It is advisable to seek many opinions, know your options, seek alternative approaches and therapies and be well informed about every aspect of your condition. It is your body, your mind and your life, so you ultimately have the right to choose what works best for you. A specialist can give advice as to which treatment they feel will be most successful for your condition but once again, doctors are only human and are not always free from error. You are putting your life into someone else’s hands, and I’m sure they will not accept responsibility if something does go wrong.

Knowledge and understanding is the key. It is your responsibility to understand your condition as much as possible. Find a good, open-minded medical or experienced natural health practitioner to guide you in the right direction and to support your decisions.


(posted in Cancer | tagged Cancer)

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