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Side EffectsRadiotherapy-related

Last update: 05/16/2011

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Radiation | Quick Reference | Recommended ResourcesResearch News

Topic search:
Medscape:  Radiotherapy AND "side effects"

The side-effects you may experience from radiotherapy will depend on which area is being treated.

For example, if you receive radiotherapy to the neck, you may experience a sore throat and discomfort when swallowing. 

"Complications of radiotherapy depend on the irradiated volume of tissue, dose administered, and the technique employed. The acute effects are usually mild and transient ... " Merck

In general modern radiotherapy devices are becoming better at focusing on cancer tissue and sparing normal cells. This tends to reduce side effects. 

Common side effects of radiotherapy:

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Cystitis (pain when passing urine) - associated with bowel

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Diarrhea - associated with stomach and pelvis therapy

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Dermatitis (inflammation of the skin)  - related PubMed abstracts

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Dry eye - associated with radiotherapy to to the eye

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Dry mouth - (xerostomia) associated with head and neck therapy

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Hair loss - associated with head and neck therapy

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Loss of taste - associated with mouth or head therapy

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Low blood counts (increases risk of infection) - associated with therapy that effects the bone marrow

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Mild depression (general)

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Mucositis (general)

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Nausea and vomiting (general)

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Oral pain - associated with mouth or head therapy

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Pain 

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Tiredness and fatigue (general)

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Weight and appetite loss - associated with mouth or head therapy
 

Radiotherapy Dosing Limits (estimated)

Various tumors and viscera have different dose limits described below

Tumor control dose (Gy = Gray)

 

Normal tissue tolerance

Leukemic cell

6 Gy

 

Brain

50 Gy

Histiocytosis

12 Gy

 

Spinal cord

45 Gy

Wilms’ tumor

20 Gy

 

Eye lens

6 Gy

Microscopic disease

50 Gy

 

Eye retina

50 Gy

Seminoma

25 Gy

 

Lungs

22.5 Gy

Lymphoma

36 Gy

 

Liver

35 Gy

Carcinoma

60-70 Gy

 

Stomach

45 Gy

Sarcoma

70 Gy

 

Kidney

22.5 Gy

Glioma

55-60 Gy

 

Uterus

250 Gy

Pituitary tumor

46 Gy

 

Rectum

50 Gy

Ewings sarcoma

55 Gy

 

Bladder

60 Gy

Source: Introduction to clinical radiotherapy  www.medic.usm.my/~jpnro/documents/IntroRT.doc 

Short- and Long-term risks of radiotherapy

The risks of any therapy must be weighed against the risks of the disease, alternative therapies, and the potential benefits of the treatment.

Short-term side effects from radiation therapy may include:

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dry mouth

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loose bowel movements,

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mild skin reactions,

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sore throat,

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tiredness, 

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upset stomach, 

Long-term side effects of radiation therapy is much lower today with newer radiation techniques that deliver low doses to the target areas, while minimizing exposures to normal tissues. Ongoing studies will better define which patients need radiation therapy and how much radiation is needed. In general, long-term risks are greater for patients who have a longer life expectancy, such as young patients receiving curative regimens.

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early onset of atherosclerotic heart disease;

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growth problems of bones and soft tissues; 

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thyroid, heart, and lung problems; 

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secondary cancers

Also see:  

bullet Cancer Treatment Support: Avoiding Infections | Diet Guidelines | Diet for Immunosuppressed |
Fight nausea | Oral Health | ConstipationWhen to call your doctor
 

Resources: 

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NPR Walt Bogdanich interview:
[Benefits and] Hidden Dangers Of Medical Radiation
Includes many useful tips  - questions to ask, who to ask, how to identify credentialed centers ....
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Managing Side Effects - National Cancer Institute
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Radiotherapy: Possible side effects of treatment - CancerBACUP
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Acute Radiation Morbidity Scoring Criteria rtog.org 
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Resources & Research News:

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Phase III randomized trial of Calendula officinal is compared with trolamine for the prevention of acute dermatitis during irradiation for breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2004 Apr 15;22(8):1447-53.  PMID: 15084618 | related abstracts  (Could well apply to protection of skin when receiving radiotherapy for any cancer.)
 
 
Disclaimer:  The information on Lymphomation.org is not intended to be a substitute for 
professional medical advice or to replace your relationship with a physician.
For all medical concerns,  you should always consult your doctor. 
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