radiation – treatment methods, dealing with side effects and common questions and answers

Belong Wisdom: about radiation – treatment methods, dealing with side effects and common questions and answers from within Belong.

Radiation treatment has raised many questions from patients and their family members in Belong.  A lot of discussions were started on the subject both in professional and community groups.

Since there is a lot of interest on the subject, we asked our Belong experts, managers in the “Ask the Radiotherapist” group, Dr. Eli Sapir and Radiotherapy nurse Sarit Kaduri to put together a list of common questions and important instructions which will help alleviate fears, provide professional and trustworthy information and help you prepare prior to and after treatment.

We thank Dr. Sapir and Mrs. Kaduri for their devotion and support.

–  What is radiation?
Radiotherapy, is the use of high-energy, ionizing radiation which is meant to harm tumor cells or the tumors edges (if it was dissected).  The radiation penetrated the area which we want to treat and destroys the cells.

– How do we avoid harming healthy cells?  
To reduce the damage to healthy cells, the radiation treatment is executed only after careful planning through a simulator, which replicates the treatment.  The treatment plan is personal and customized for each individual patient.

– How is the amount of radiation determined?
The amount of radiation is determined by the doctor based on research and global protocols.

–  How long does the treatment take?
The radiation itself takes a few minutes.  However, if you are scheduled for treatment you should take into consideration the time necessary for positioning too which could take a while.

–  Is the treatment painful?
The treatment itself is not painful, it is the same as taking an x-ray.

–  Are there side effects to radiation treatment?
The reaction from radiation varies from patient to patient.  Some of the patients have reported temporary side effects, which fade gradually once the treatment has concluded.  The side effects, should they occur will usually manifest themselves a few weeks after the treatment has started.  It is important to report the side effects to the medical team in order to receive appropriate treatment.  It is important to mention that contrary to chemo treatment, radiation side effects will be local, and not systemic.

–  Are there any specific instructions for the treatment period?
Overall, there is no reason to change your lifestyle during treatment.  It is important to eat well and be rested.  Swimming activity at the pool or in the sea should be suspended.  Chlorine and saltwater, could cause a skin rash.  If you are planning a vacation during your treatment period make sure you consult your doctor.

A few important notes:

>> Certain radiation clinics will mark with ink instead of tattooing.  It is important not to remove the mark during the treatment period.  These marks are essential to make sure the radiation area is accurate.  Should the mark fade, the radiation technician will enhance it.

>> Wash the area with lukewarm water only, use a mild liquid soap (baby soap).

>> Avoid rubbing or scratching the skin.  When drying the skin, dab it with a soft towel.  It is important to keep the treatment area dry.

>> Avoid dressing the area with gauzes, band aids or any other type of bandage unless specifically ordered by the treating team.  Nipples can be covered with breast feeding pads.

>> You can use calendula if you have dry skin.

>> Oily creams should be avoided.

>> You should contact your doctor or nurse immediately if you encounter one of the following:  A fever above 100.5F (38.0 C), pain, rash or if you feel something unusual.

–  Can you be around other people during the treatment period?
Absolutely, the patient does not emit radiation.  You can be around other people, including pregnant women and children.

–  Will you lose hair during radiation treatment?
Hair loss is not a radiation side effect.  You might experience hair loss on the specific radiated area.

Do you have any tips or insights after going through radiotherapy that you would like to share with the Belong community? Feel free to add it by commenting on this post.

We wish you all the best of health,
The Belong Team

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