When you're diagnosed with cancer, your doctor works with you to come up with a treatment plan that's most suitable for the type of cancer you have and its location. There are different types of cancer treatments to try, and one common choice is radiation therapy. Here's a look at how radiation is beneficial in the fight against your cancer and what to expect with the treatments.
How Radiation Treats Cancer
Radiation treatments are given in a targeted manner so they affect the cancer cells while doing as little harm to healthy tissue as possible. When a beam of radiation hits a cancer cell, it damages the cell's DNA. After a few treatments, the DNA can be so damaged that the cancer cells stop spreading and they may even die. The process of treating cancer is usually spread over many weeks since it takes time for the targeted cells to die and once they die, the cells have to be absorbed by your body. The result is a shrinking tumor due to the death of cancer cells.
Reasons Radiation Treatments Are Given
Radiation targets tumors to shrink them. Radiation treatments may not be suitable for all types of cancer, but when they're given, the goal is to stop the cancer from growing, slow the cancer growth, or cure the cancer. Radiation treatments might be given before surgery to shrink a tumor so it can be removed more easily. The treatments might be given for comfort reasons when a tumor is growing large and causing pain or interfering with bodily functions. Radiation treatments are often given in combination with other cancer therapies to bring about cancer remission and prevent cancer from coming back.
How It Feels To Have Radiation Treatments
Radiation treatments shouldn't be painful but they might be uncomfortable since your body has to be positioned in specific ways and you can't move during the procedure. However, side effects from the radiation treatments are common. You may experience fatigue and nausea. Depending on where you receive the treatments, you may have local side effects such as a sore throat from treatments to your neck, hair loss from treatments to your brain, and vomiting and diarrhea from abdominal radiation treatments. You may need to change your diet and lifestyle to help you cope with the side effects, and you may need to take off work if nausea and fatigue become severe.
Radiation treatments are given in different ways and people react to the treatments differently. The cancer center where you get your treatments will prepare you for what to expect and offer advice for coping with side effects you might experience.
For more information, reach out to cancer centers like the Silver Cancer Institute.