One of the most important effects of radiation therapy is that it damages the adjoining healthy tissues which consequently lead to side effects. A lot of people are worried about this aspect of cancer treatment. This is why it is important to seek the advice of your doctor regarding what to expect.
Radioprotective Drugs and the Effects of Radiation
Doctors are always on the lookout for ways in which they can reduce the side effects of a radiation therapy, although they make room for the dosage which is required to kill the cancer cells. One of the best ways to reduce the effects is with the use of radioprotective drugs. These drugs are administered before the radiation treatment for preventing some normal tissues in the area which is being treated.
The commonly used drug is amifostine. This is a radioprotective drug which is used on patients suffering from neck or head cancer for reducing problems in the mouth which is experienced in radiation therapy.
The field of radioprotective drugs is an active realm of study, although all doctors do not agree about their usage in radiation therapy. The drugs have their side effects and hence it is important to know what to expect.
Steps to Follow during Treatment
You must be especially careful for protecting the state of your health in the course of radiation treatment. The nurse or doctor will offer you advice on the basis of treatment and the possible side effects. Here are a few tips to alleviate the effects of radiation:
Take Rest: You should always take lots of rest as radiation might make you feel more exhausted than usual. The fatigue can last for weeks after the conclusion of treatment.
Balanced Diet: Make sure you follow a nourishing diet. The nurse or doctor can suggest dietary changes on the basis of the part of your body receiving the radiation.
Look After the Skin: The skin on the affected region should be well taken care of. External radiation therapy may make the skin more sensitive or appear sunburned. You also need to refer to your doctor about using lotions, deodorants, perfumes, soaps, medicines, cosmetics, talc or other components because some of them may aggravate sensitive skin.
Avoid Tight Clothes: You should not wear tight garments on the area which is being treated. The garments to avoid include pantyhose, close fitting collars and girdles. You may opt for loose and soft cotton clothes instead. Your clothes should not be starched.
Do Not Rub Skin: You should not scrub, rub or use adhesive tape on the part of the skin which is being treated as it can aggravate the effects of radiation. If you need to bandage or cover the skin, you can use a tape made of paper or any other material.
The tape should be out outside the area of treatment. Do not put it in the same position every time.
Avoid Heat and Cold: Make sure not to apply cold or heat like ice packs, heat lamps or heating packs on the area without the recommendation of your doctor. Avoid hot water as it can hurt the skin. The affected region should be washed in lukewarm water.
Prevention from Sun: The treated region should be protected from the sun. Your skin can be extra sensitive towards sunlight. You can always cover the treated area with dark colored clothing before venturing outside. If your doctor suggests sunscreen, use one with an SPF of about 15. Apply the lotion even after the skin has healed. Continue for about a year after radiation therapy.
Inform your Doctor about the Medicines: Your doctor should know all about the medicines that you generally take and the frequency in which they are taken. The list should also include vitamins, aspirins and herbs, antihistamines, antacids, headache remedies as well as sleep aids.
The side effects of radiation therapy may vary. Your nurse and doctor are the best people to refer to about how you should take care of yourself. Mention any changes that you are undergoing including fatigue, eating problems, diarrhea and changes of the skin.
The side effects of radiation therapy may differ from one person to another depending on the dosage being administered and the area of the body which is being treated. The after effects may be influenced by the reaction of your body to treatment.