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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Surgeries and Procedures > Radiation Therapy: Home Care and Complications
      Category : Health Centers > Cancers and Tumors

Radiation Therapy

Alternate Names : Radiation Treatment

Radiation Therapy | Preparation & Expectations | Home Care and Complications

What happens later at home?

Radiation therapy can lessen the symptoms of cancer. These include pain, numbness, headaches, and nerve problems.

Radiation treatment with intent to cure delivers a tolerable dose. People who are cured can live healthy lives. They can be treated again at the same site if a relapse occurs.

Almost all cancers treated with radiation require monitoring for a return of the cancer. Monitoring may last for 2 to 10 years, depending on the type of cancer.

What are the potential complications after the procedure?

Side effects occur because any living tissue is sensitive to radiation. They may be acute, mild, and temporary. Other times, they can be more serious and permanent. Normal cells that are rapidly growing or regenerating are more prone to side effects. Examples are bone marrow, intestines, kidneys, liver, and lungs. The brain, heart, and bone are less sensitive.

Some side effects are acute but go away on their own. These include:

  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • hair loss
  • mouth sores
  • nausea
  • skin burn
  • Other side effects can develop more slowly and are permanent. These include necrosis or death of bone, and pneumonitis, an irritation of the lungs. Later side effects may also include:

  • bowel obstruction
  • heart disease
  • intestinal damage
  • kidney failure
  • loss of blood vessels that supply the skin
  • secondary cancers
  • Radiation to the brain can cause delayed cognitive impairments. These may include personality changes, memory loss, and dementia.

    Combining radiation and chemotherapy can cause more acute and late side effects. Combination therapy is more likely to cause secondary cancers and permanent damage to the bone marrow.

    Superficial electron-beam radiation is usually free of serious side effects. Implanted radiation tends to cause local reactions. There can be some late complications, such as scarring. Radioactive iodine in the usual doses rarely causes any problems.

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    Radiation Therapy: Preparation & Expectations


    Author: Miriam P. Rogers, EdD, RN, AOCN, CNS
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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