Thursday, November 10, 2016

Guest Post: When Your Loved One Undergoes Radiation

By Targeting Cancer

When a loved one is receiving radiation treatment, your love and support can make all the difference. This type of therapy, which utilizes a high-energy beam to destroy cancer cells, is typically administered on an out-patient basis. Understanding the treatment itself may help you better meet your loved one’s unique needs.

Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer that uses radiation therapy as treatment. Usually, doctors will recommend this after lumpectomy to lower the risk of cancer recurrence. The treatment is given to a patient several weeks after the surgery to allow the body to recover, and can be a supplement to chemotherapy. Since radiation passes through the skin, it is normal for your loved one to experience redness and swollenness of the skin. These side effects are just temporary and should eventually pass in four to six weeks.

Skin Cancer
Skin cancer, while not as common as breast cancer, can affect both men and women and even children. Radiation therapy is one of the effective options to address skin cancer, especially if affected area is large and if surgery is not possible. It is also a good option to those who do not want to undergo surgery. However, this treatment can also be given after the surgery. Side effects of the radiotherapy for skin cancer includes skin irritation and peeling, change in the skin color and hair loss on treated skin areas. This treatment is known to be effective, but with long exposure to radiation therapy, the side effects may get worse.

Lung Cancer
Those who smoke have higher risk of lung cancer and even those who are exposed to smoking passively may also develop the disease.  Lung cancer comes in two types – non-small cell cancers and small cells lung cancer. These two grow and spread in different ways.

It can be treated through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Getting the combination of these treatments is sometimes necessary and advisable to fully remove the cancer cells in the body. Once your loved one undergoes radiation therapy, they might experience sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, cough, chest pain, and hair loss.

Prostate Cancer

Radiation therapy (also known as radical radiotherapy) is widely used to treat prostate cancer. It uses high levels of radiation to eliminate cancer cells. It reduces the growth of the cell while minimizing the damage to the good and healthy cells. This type of treatment is highly effective and considered as less invasive than prostatectomy. However, it comes with several side effects, including long-term bowel issues, and infertility and erection problems.

Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer only affects women and the illness is arising from the cervix. Radiation therapy is one option to treat this type of cancer. It can be done through internal or external therapy. Those who undergo this treatment experienced several side effects, including vaginal bleeding, irritable bladder and genital soreness.

Regardless of the type of cancer, try to help your loved one when and how you can… getting them to appointments, picking up groceries and keeping things orderly. At home, keep him or her hydrated, organize frequent, smaller meals and be prepared to handle bouts of nausea and diarrhea. Mouth soreness is another common problem for those receiving radiation therapy.

If your loved one is having trouble swallowing, consider serving soft, moist foods. You may need to add creams or sauces to foods served to him or her, or make nutrient-rich shakes.  A diet with few spices and low acid will help prevent further irritation. Limiting tomato products and citrus fruits or juices may be necessary. So, too, is avoiding tough cuts of meat, foods that are hard to chew and any alcohol or alcohol-based mouthwashes.

While your loved one has greater energy and protein needs during treatment, foods that are too rich or fatty can exacerbate nausea and diarrhea. If the nausea is chronic, old-fashioned peppermint candies or a few saltine crackers and sips of ginger ale (not diet), can be surprisingly helpful home remedies.

If your loved one is experiencing skin issues, run oatmeal bathes and have soothing moisturizers on hand for applying afterward. Don’t forget to have ice packs and cold compresses at the ready to ease discomfort.

Of course, just being there during the challenges of radiation treatment will make your loved feel more secure and hopeful.

Targeting Cancer, which has multiple treatment centers in Australia, New Zealand and the Tiwi Islands, offers an array of information and resources on cancer and therapeutic options on its website. You can also follow the organization on Facebook.

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