More than half of patients treated for cancer benefit from radiotherapy treatment alone or in addition to surgery and / or chemotherapy.
This technique involves sending X-rays to the tumor in order to damage it and prevent it from multiplying. This ensures that even microscopic tumors are completely destroyed.
A simulation session is performed at the start of treatment, during which the radiotherapist defines the contours of the area to be treated using a scanner image. The treatment itself involves five sessions per week for four to eight weeks. There is no need to be hospitalized. Each session lasts ten to twenty minutes, but the irradiation, completely painless, only lasts a few minutes.
Side effects of radiotherapy
Radiotherapy has made many advances. However, some side effects persist. Their intensity depends on the dose of irradiation, the location of the tumor, but also the sensitivity of each.
Dr Marc Keller, national coordinator of Cancer Info Service, recalls that “whatever the side effect felt, it is essential to report it without delay to your radiotherapist or medical oncologist, so that they can indicate the behavior to take or prescribe the appropriate treatment to reduce the inconveniences. “
General signs: skin aggression and fatigue
The irradiated skin looks burnt like a sunburn: it is red, sensitive, hot and may itch. Sometimes it peels in fine flakes.
What can I do to relieve the side effects of radiation therapy?
– Apply the cream recommended by the doctor, before, during and after the treatment. Before using a cream, inform the caregivers to check if there is a contraindication. Do not apply any perfume, deodorant, powder or aftershave.
– Wash your skin with lukewarm water with Marseille soap.
– Do not shave.
– Don’t get in the sun.
– Do not wear clothes made of synthetic fabric, which are too irritating, prefer cotton.
– Check that no buttons, labels or rubber bands rub on the treated part.
What to do during a great feeling of weariness?
– Fatigue is a side effect that must be taken care of as soon as it appears. Tell the medical team so that they can look for the cause: anemia, depressive syndrome, weight loss, daily travel, etc.
– Organize your day by choosing priorities. Adapt your pace to this state.
– Do not enter the vicious circle “I am tired”, therefore “I have no activity and no appetite”, consequently “I am losing weight”. You would risk muscle wasting, which would further accentuate the lack of desire to move and eat.
The signs if the head, neck and mouth are irradiated …
There may be difficulty swallowing, a lack of saliva, altered taste, headaches and temporary hair loss.
What to do ?
– Choose foods with a texture that are easy to swallow. Mix too difficult dishes. Add broth or milk to improve the texture. Avoid irritating or acidic foods, as well as alcohol and tobacco.
– Drink enough.
– For the lack of saliva, commercial preparations can help you.
– Before treatment, have a dental check-up. Have a fluoride splint made to prevent the risk of cavities potentiated by radiotherapy.
– Wash your teeth with a soft toothbrush, three to four times a day.
If the chest or abdomen are irradiated …
In the case of the chest, there is pain in the esophagus, difficulty swallowing and a cough if the lung is irradiated. For the abdomen, we find nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
What to do ?
– In the event of side effects, the radiotherapist can recommend the appropriate treatment.
– Split meals and choose foods that are easy to swallow and digest. Choose a diet low in gluten.
– Drink a lot (1.5 to 2 liters per day).
– Avoid eating a few hours before and after the session.
If the breast is irradiated
In addition to the redness of the skin, it is sometimes observed after a few weeks, especially if the breast is a little large, a change in the gland and the skin is colored.
What to do ?
– Thoroughly dry the skin folds and avoid any injury.
If the pelvis is irradiated
Frequent and painful urination, as well as difficulty in having a bowel movement, may occur.
What to do ?
– Drink normally (1.5 to 2 liters per day).
– Favor foods rich in fiber, starches and green vegetables.