Radiation therapy is the use of ionizing radiation in medical purposes such as cancer treatment. Radiation therapy is in usage for the last one hundred years. There are three types of side effects from radiation therapy: acute, long-term and cumulative.
Side effects of radiation therapy
The main acute side effect is skin irritation like that of a mild sunburn. Fatigue is also very common, and it can last for several weeks after the treatment. Swelling, soreness, general inflammation and infertility as gonads are especially sensitive to radiation.
Long term side effects. These side effects can occur months after the treatment was finished. These happen because of all the extensive damage that the body has sustained during treatment. Chance of developing any of these long term side effects can be diminished if therapy is divided into smaller parts.
This is called fractionation. This gives some time to healthy cells to recover, while the tumor cells cannot repair themselves so effectively. They’ve somewhat broken already. Some of the long term effects may include conditions such as Fibrosis is a condition where tissue loses its elasticity due to scarring caused by radiation.
Epilation is the loss of hair. Dryness – because sweat glands are susceptible to radiation levels above 30 Gy (Gray), the patient can stop sweating. His saliva glands and tear glands can stop working. This is not lethal per se but can significantly affect patients quality of life. Lymphedema – swelling caused by retention of fluid. Usually occurs during radiation therapy against breast cancer.
Cancer can occur after twenty to thirty years of treatment, but it is up to the doctor to evaluate will the risk of secondary cancer outweigh the problem that the patient is currently facing. Heart disease also a risk when treating breast cancer. Cognitive failure may occur in cases when it is needed to treat patients head area.