Radiation side effects

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Radiation therapy is one type of treatment that uses high energy particles or waves to kill cancer cells, damaging their genetic material so they cannot continue to grow and divide. Approximately 60% of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy, and thousands of people become cancer free after treatment. However, some people are not helped by radiation therapy. Additionally, radiation therapy may be used alone or with other treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery. Radiation therapy may be used to cure or shrink early stage cancer, prevent cancer from recurring in another area, and treat symptoms of advanced cancer. It is considered a local treatment because the radiation does not reach all parts of the body and only affects cells in and around the cancer. Therefore, radiation therapy is not as useful against cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body. The radiation dose given depends on the type of cancer and whether there are tissues and organs nearby that may be damaged.
Radiation therapy may damage nearby healthy cells and side effects may occur depending on the treatment location. The goal of radiation therapy is to damage as many cancer cells as possible while limiting harm to healthy tissue. Doctors try to protect healthy cells during radiation therapy by using as low a dose as possible, spreading out treatment over time, and aiming radiation at a precise part of the body. Most side effects go away within two months after radiation therapy is finished. However, late side effects may develop six or more months after treatment completion.

Related Terms

Alopecia, analgesics, anxiety, bladder changes, brachytherapy, depression, external radiation therapy, fertility changes, internal radiation therapy, malnutrition, mucosal coating agents, low white blood cell counts after X-ray treatment, lymphedema, radiation damage, radiation dermatitis, radiation emergency (potassium iodide thyroid protection), radiation enteritis, radiation mucositis, radiation skin irritation, radiation skin protection, radiation therapy rash (radiation burn), radiation therapy side effects (prostate cancer), radiation therapy skin reactions (used on the skin), radiation-associated leukopenia, radiation-induced colitis/diarrhea, radiation-induced lung damage, radiation-induced mucositis, radiodermatitis, sexual changes, topical therapy, wound care.