Is Radiation Therapy Painful?
Radiation therapy is used for cancer patients in almost half of all cases to shrink tumors and destroy some benign (noncancerous) growths as well.
During your treatment, you’ll remain motionless on a table as the machine rotates around you and delivers precise doses of radiation to the tumor. Expect to spend anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes in the treatment room depending on how complex your procedure is.
Your therapists will communicate with you via a monitor and intercom. They have the ability to turn on and off the machine as well as come in for check-ups at any time.
For treatments to the head and neck, you may choose a thermoplastic mask molded to your face that is secured to the table. This mask helps keep you still while receiving radiation treatments.
It is essential to eat and drink regularly during your treatment in order to support your health and avoid side effects. Choose foods/drinks high in calories and protein, like meat, fish, milk or yogurt; steer clear of sharp or crunchy foods, hot or spicy meals as well as alcohol and tobacco products.
After your treatment, you may experience nausea and vomiting, especially if the area being treated is near your mouth or esophagus. These symptoms usually subside 4 to 6 weeks after your procedure ends and pain medicine can help alleviate these sensations.
When in pain, try to take it easy and rest as much as possible. Ice packs can also help reduce discomfort. It is essential that you inform your doctor if you require more rest or have trouble sleeping so that the cancer care team can provide assistance in managing any discomfort.
Fatigue is a common side effect of radiation therapy. Feeling fatigued during your treatment can be frustrating and difficult to cope with, but usually goes away on its own after the therapy has ended.
Your doctor or nurse may give you medications to help manage fatigue. They also ask about any other side effects you experience, such as skin changes or pain.
During treatment, your skin in the treated area may appear red, irritated, swollen or blistered. This condition is known as radiation dermatitis and may persist for several weeks after treatments have ended. You may also experience peeling and dryness of the skin.
After finishing radiation, your body sheds small amounts of radiation through sweat, urine and blood. These substances may cause itchy or swollen areas of skin as well as a burning sensation in your throat or chest.
Radiation can wreak havoc on your bone marrow, making it more difficult to create new blood cells. This condition, known as neutropenia or low white blood cell count, may occur if you don’t get enough vitamins and minerals during treatment.
You might experience difficulty swallowing, which can be painful or even lead to choking on food. To help avoid this issue, try eating slowly and drinking liquids such as milk or water before eating; this helps avoid choking and coughing during treatment.