Radiotherapy Cancer Treatment
By Shannon Burford
Radiotherapy is a form targeted x-ray therapy which is used to destroy cancer cells with a localised radiation. Radiotherapy can reduce the size of cancer tumors in many sites of the body. Side effects of radiotherapy may include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, mouth ulcers, skin changes, chest problems or abdominal pains and naturopathy attempts to minimise side effects and strengthen the bodies natural processes.
Radiotherapy is commonly used for cancer in the following cases-
- Before surgery to reduce the tumor size
- localised masses, lymphatic tumors
- After surgery to kill remaining cancer cells
- Advanced cancers, in combination with chemotherapy to reduce the mass size
- As a pain relief method and to reduce bleeding
Effects of Radiotherapy Treatment
The length of treatment varies depending on individual factors such as the location, type and stage of the cancer. Furthermore treatment depends upon whether radiotherapy is combined with other treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery.
Usually your case will be discussed in a multidisciplinary specialist meeting to determine if radiotherapy is the most appropriate therapy. At this meeting, oncologists, surgeons, medical consultants and pathologists consider your specific case. It is ok to think outside of the box and incorporate other modalities of health professionals, remembering education yourself is very important.
If you are to have treatment to the head or neck, the medical team may decide to make an individualised cast of your upper body to assist with preventing movement during the treatment. In other cases, firm fitting devices will be placed around your body during treatment to keep you stable. Some treatments require that you lie on your stomach in a special cradle or support which allows part of the bowel to be outside the treatment area.
Radiation Therapy Side Effects
Everybody is an individual and for this reason some people experience stronger side effects. Most patients experience at least one or two side effects. Side effects depend on the type and dose of radiotherapy you receive and which part of your body is being treated. General side effects may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Skin changes – including dryness, redness, itching, blistering, flaking and ulceration. Usually herbal creams or compresses are useful
- Hair loss (alopecia) – this may affect parts of the body that were treated, including head, facial hair, armpits and pubic hair
- Mouth conditions – may include mouth dryness, difficulty chewing and swallowing, and dental decay
- Chest problems – may include coughing, shortness of breath and painful swallowing
Side effects will almost always pass after treatment but can be managed with the use of herabal medicine and nutritional support. It is also helpful to consider the following points:
- Rest as much as you can and consider napping in the afternoon. Plan your activities for times when you know you’ll feel the most energetic, perhaps in the mornings
- Exercise gently whenever possible
- Avoid excessive sun exposure. When outside, wear protective clothing such as a hat and a long-sleeved top
- Avoid using substances which contain chemicals such as hair dyes, perfumes, deodorants, soaps, creams and make-up. These will irritate the skin and toxic load on the body
- Avoid scratchy or stiff clothing
- Avoid hot showers or baths, scratchy towels and shaving. Do not scrub dry the skin over the treatment area
- Eat nutrient dense foods instead of energy dense foods. If you don’t feel like eating, consider a soup broth, smaller meal or protein shake
- Avoid spicy food, fatty foods, alcohol, coffee, nuts and seeds unless they are milled
- Try to snack lightly throughout the day rather than having three large main meals
Depending on your specific treatment, your treatment duration will vary considerably. Some patients receive only one treatment of radiotherapy; others may receive regular treatments for one to seven weeks. It is usually (but not always) given once a day, five times a week and takes a few minutes each time.
Radiotherapy can be administered by a variety of machines and devices, depending on which body part is affected and the type and stage of the tumour. The two main types of radiotherapy are external and internal (brachytherapy).
The Claremont Medical Centre
The buliding combines a range of integrative medicine services. There are over 10 GPs on the lower ground level, a dentist and pathology collection centre on the ground floor. On the first floor there are several clinical psychologists, podiatrist, massage therapist, and naturopath.
Contact the clinic to speak with a naturopath or to make a booking