Radiation Therapy Side Effects: What to Expect
If you or a loved one are undergoing, or about to undergo radiation therapy, you’re probably full of questions: What kind of side effects are there? How long will they last?
In this article you’ll learn the most common side effects of radiation treatment and what else to expect when going through radiation therapy.
Because radiation has trouble telling the difference between healthy and cancerous cells, it often catches healthy cells, such as skin cells, in the crossfire.
Radiation therapy can cause skin irritation, which has been described as being somewhat similar to sunburn. This can include peeling, itching, blistering and dryness at the treatment area. Some parts of the body are more sensitive than others, so talk to your doctor if you feel that skin damage is becoming a major issue. Be sure to only treat skin irritation with methods approved by your care team. For example, only use lotions that your care team is familiar with and approves of.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting can also be a side effect of radiation therapy, and it’s important to control in order to achieve the best treatment outcome.
Cancer patients need to maintain a healthy nutritional profile in order to ensure that they will stay strong enough for the duration of their treatment. This is especially important for patients who are undergoing both radiation and chemotherapy, as their body has to fight to stay strong against two tissue-damaging therapies at the same time.
Nausea and vomiting can take away from the body’s ability to support its self by removing vital nutrients from the body which would otherwise be digested and delivered by the stomach. This can lead to a very dangerous condition called Cachexia, which is characterized by weakness or wasting of the body.
Preventing Cachexia, Responsible for 1/3rd of All Cancer Related Deaths
Why is Cachexia such a big deal?
The National Cancer Institute estimates that 1 out of every 3 cancer deaths can be attributed to Cachexia. Put simply, the body simply falls behind in it’s ability to repair itself and continues a downward spiral during, or even after treatment. It’s a viscous cycle that we at Haelan Products have made a primary goal of addressing with our specialized nutritional beverage, Haelan 951.
Outside of Haelan 951, small, evenly spaced meals can help reduce nausea and vomiting. Many patients find that greasy, strong-smelling or hot foods can increase nausea and vomiting, so trying cooler foods can help. Nausea medicine can also help, but make sure and talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any medication, even over the counter medications. Staying hydrated is also important, so make sure and keep fluids with you to sip throughout the day.
While preventing nausea and vomiting is important, the end goal is to provide the body with the nutrition it needs to repair healthy tissue which was damaged during treatment, so make sure and eat healthy, nutrient dense foods.
When Should I Expect Side Effects to Occur?
Most side effects from radiation treatment begin to occur in the 2nd or 3rd week of treatment. Most go away after treatment, but it is important to keep in coordination with your care team if you continue to experience side effects after radiation treatment. Few patients experience no side effects at all, and because the severity of side effects varies from person to person, make sure you are doing everything you can during treatment to reduce long term side effects.
How Can I Prepare for Radiation Therapy Ahead of Time?
The best way to prevent or reduce radiation therapy side effects is to plan ahead. For example, keeping out of the sun or using a strong sunblock will keep your skin as healthy as possible before treatment. Plan on only using gentle cleansers and have them in your house before your first session.
Make sure you are rested for your first session and focus on removing stressors or enrolling helpers to keep your day-to-day as stress free as possible.
We also encourage patients to start treatment with the strongest nutritional profile possible, so make sure to eat vitamin rich foods ahead of treatment. Our specialists recommend a 10 day ramp-up period before starting either radiation or chemotherapy when using Haelan 951, and it’s a good guideline for general nutrition as well.
We at Haelan Products have spent the last 28 years studying how to help patients undergoing cancer treatment, and we are happy to help anyone, weather taking Haelan 951 or not. If you have questions, you can reach out to us using the chat in the lower right hand corner, or use our contact form.
We wish you all the best and look forward to hearing from you should you have any questions.
Haelan 951 is a specialized nutritional concentrate for patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Many patients see their costs covered by insurance and it is available either through prescription or direct order.