Answers to The Top 4 Questions About Radiation Therapy

Anyone that is starting a new medical treatment has a right to be a little nervous.  This article is being written to help ease the anxiety of cancer patients that are scheduled for radiation therapy.  Fear comes because of the unknown and common misunderstandings patients have about radiation. 

Radiation therapy is delivered using a large piece of medical equipment known as a linear accelerator.  With maintenance, repairs, and part replacement linear accelerators can deliver radiation to an average number of patients for between five and ten years.  Below we will answer the most commonly asked questions about radiation therapy using a linear accelerator, LINAC.

Is Radiation Therapy Painful?

Thankfully radiation therapy is not painful.  Patients often report that they do not experience any sensation when the radiation is delivered from the LINAC.   A few patients have reported that they feel a slight warm tingle in the area where the LINAC is delivering radiation.  The skin in the area where linear accelerators deliver treatment can become dry and itchy over time.  This can cause some discomfort but definitely not enough to stop treatment.  Skin reactions due to radiation can be treated with over the counter ointment. 

Does Radiation Therapy Cause Me to Be Radioactive?

Radiation therapy only makes patients radioactive when internal radiation is given.  Patients are radioactive while the radioactive materials are in them.  These patients are secluded in a private hospital room.  Patients that are treated using a LINAC through external radiation, will not be radioactive at all.  External radiation delivers a precise dose of radiation to the cancerous tissues instantaneously.  With external radiation the radiation does not linger. Once the LINAC is turned off the radiation isn’t an issue.  In external radiation, patients can continue on their normal routines without worry. 

Will I Lose My Hair During Radiation Therapy?

Radiation is considered a localized treatment which means that it focuses directly on the area being treated.  This being said you can expect hair loss in the area of treatment however unless treatment is done on your head you shouldn’t experience hair loss.  Confusion occurs because people associate radiation and chemotherapy as one in the same therapies.  The difference is that chemotherapy is a systemic treatment which means it affects the entire body.  During chemotherapy there is a likelihood that patients will lose their hair.

Should I Expect to Experience Nausea and Vomiting? 

Radiation therapy doesn’t usually cause patients to feel sick.  If treatment is given in areas such as the liver, brain, or gastrointestinal tract patients have more of a risk to experience nausea.  Also, patients that are going through chemotherapy and radiation at the same time there is more of a risk for feeling ill.

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