Internal Radiotherapy Permanent Implants
A permanent implant is usually performed using radiation seeds . These implants stay in place. The therapy is given over days and weeks, but the seeds become weaker and eventually stop being radioactive after some months, depending on the variety of implant used.
The hospital staff will isolate you in a single room and limit the time you spend with visitors in the first few days after the implant is inserted.
The radiation fades with time, so other people will be safe to be near you once you are discharged from hospital. Special instructions will be given about coming close to children and pregnant women while the sources are still active inside the body.
What To Expect: How Its Performed
External beam radiation therapy leans on an impressive piece of technology called a linear accelerator. Linear accelerators produce X-ray energy by accelerating the movement of electrons and forcing them to collide with heavy metal. This X-ray energy is then focused on the predetermined target to shrink or halt the growth of certain cancer cells.
Therapy can often require daily treatment sessions, for up to 10-weeks, but with weekends off to give your normal cells a break. When you arrive for a session, your doctor will position your body on the treatment table in precisely the same way they did during your radiation simulation. You may be provided with protective coverings or shields as well.
Once securely in position, the linear accelerator is put to work, painlessly directing radiation at the required locations. The machine may move, and it may even make a buzzing sound over the course of the treatment. Youll be the only person in the treatment room and the machine is in action for roughly 10 to 30-minutes depending on your treatment plan. You will, however, be in constant contact with your treatment team through an intercom.
If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Head Or Neck
People who get radiation to the head and neck might have side effects such as:
- Soreness in the mouth or throat
- Jaw stiffness
How to care for your mouth during treatment
If you get radiation therapy to the head or neck, you need to take good care of your teeth, gums, mouth, and throat. Here are some tips that may help you manage mouth problems:
- Avoid spicy and rough foods, such as raw vegetables, dry crackers, and nuts.
- Dont eat or drink very hot or very cold foods or beverages.
- Dont smoke, chew tobacco, or drink alcohol these can make mouth sores worse.
- Stay away from sugary snacks.
- Ask your cancer care team to recommend a good mouthwash. The alcohol in some mouthwashes can dry and irritate mouth tissues.
- Rinse your mouth with warm salt and soda water every 1 to 2 hours as needed.
- Sip cool drinks often throughout the day.
- Eat sugar-free candy or chew gum to help keep your mouth moist.
- Moisten food with gravies and sauces to make it easier to eat.
- Ask your cancer care team about medicines to help treat mouth sores and control pain while eating.
If these measures are not enough, ask your cancer care team for advice. Mouth dryness may be a problem even after treatment is over. If so, talk to your team about what you can do.
How to care for your teeth during treatment
Radiation treatment to your head and neck can increase your chances of getting cavities. This is especially true if you have dry mouth as a result of treatment.
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What Are The Late Side Effects From Radiation Therapy
Late side effects from radiation therapy take months and sometimes years to show up and usually donât go away. But not everyone will have them.
These problems happen when radiation damages your body. For example, scar tissue can affect the way your lungs or your heart works. Bladder, bowel, fertility, and sexual problems can start after radiation to your belly or pelvis.
Another possible late effect is a second cancer. Doctors have known for a long time that radiation can cause cancer. And research has shown that radiation treatment for one cancer can raise the risk for developing a different cancer later. Factors that can affect that risk include the amount of radiation used and the area that was treated. Talk with your doctor about the potential risk and how it compares to the benefits youâll get from radiation therapy.
Cancer That Clearly Has Spread
If the cancer has spread outside the prostate, it will most likely go to nearby lymph nodes first, and then to bones. Much less often the cancer will spread to the liver or other organs.
When prostate cancer has spread to other parts of the body , hormone therapy is probably the most effective treatment. But it isnt likely to cure the cancer, and at some point it might stop working. Usually the first treatment is a luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonist, LHRH antagonist, or orchiectomy, sometimes along with an anti-androgen drug or abiraterone. Another option might be to get chemotherapy along with the hormone therapy. Other treatments aimed at bone metastases might be used as well.
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Advances Of Radiation Therapy
Despite possible long-term side effects of radiation treatment, it’s essential to point out that radiation therapy has come a long since it was introduced in 1903, especially in recent years. With more precise dosing and newer methods of delivery, older studies may overestimate the risks.
At the same time, as people are living longer with cancer, the long-term effects of radiation will become increasingly important. It’s estimated that 50% of people diagnosed with cancer will receive radiation therapy at some point in their journey.
Will Side Effects Limit My Activities
Not necessarily, says Yale Medicine radiation oncologist Lynn Wilson, MD, who is the chair of Therapeutic Radiology and a professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale School of Medicine. It will depend on what side effects you experienceand how severe they are. Many patients are able to go to work, keep house, and enjoy leisure activities while they are receiving radiation therapy. Others find that they need more rest than usual and therefore cannot do as much. You should try to do the things you enjoy, as long as you don’t become too tired. Your doctor may suggest that you limit activities that might irritate the area being treated. In most cases, you can have sexual relations if you wish. However, your desire for physical intimacy may be lower because radiation therapy may cause you to feel more tired than usual.
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Radiation Therapy: What It Is
This therapy, also known as radiotherapy, is a cancer treatment procedure that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancerous cells and shrink the tumor as well. At low doses, this procedure is used as an x-ray.
This therapy can be internal or external or both form. For external beam, a machine that is outside your body aims at the cancerous cells. For internal therapy, the radiations are placed inside your body inside or near the cancer.
For radiotherapy for prostate cancer, high-energy rays are used to kill the cancer cells. This treatment procedure does not cause pain. However, it may result in various side effects that might cause pain and make you feel uncomfortable. The good thing is that there are numerous ways to manage radiotherapy side effects with the help of your radiation oncologist.
When Is Brachytherapy Alone The Right Choice
For a patient with disease that is confined to the prostate and not too aggressive, brachytherapy alone is a good option. With the use of sophisticated real-time computer-based planning, we can use brachytherapy to deliver radiation in an extraordinarily precise way, with minimal exposure to the surrounding normal tissues. It is also convenient for the patient as it is done in an outpatient setting and most people are able to get back to work the next day.
But brachytherapy is not right for everyone. For some patients with less-aggressive disease, a watch-and-wait approach would also be very reasonable. At MSK, our philosophy is that when the disease is caught very early meaning a low PSA level, or nonaggressive disease as reflected by a Gleason score of 6 with evidence of cancer in only a few of the biopsy samples and no evidence from the MRI of a significant amount of disease then it would be very appropriate to do active surveillance and hold off on treatment.
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Possible Late Effects Of External Beam Radiotherapy
You may have side effects that do not improve, or side effects that happen months to years after radiotherapy finishes. These are called long-term or late effects. Your doctor or nurse will explain these to you. There are different ways late effects of pelvic radiotherapy can be managed.
Possible late effects include the following:
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What Side Effects Occur With Radiation Therapy To The Stomach And Abdomen
If you are having radiation treatment to the stomach or some portion of the abdomen, you may experience an upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea. Your doctor can prescribe medicines to relieve these problems. Do not take any home remedies during your treatment unless you first check with your doctor or nurse.
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Being Prepared And Understanding Radiation Therapy Can Help Lessen Some Of The Stress Surrounding Your Treatment
Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, is one of the main treatments for cancer. Being prepared and understanding radiation therapy can help lessen some of the stress surrounding your treatment. Ask your oncologist, doctor or nurse about the risks and benefits of radiation therapy and any other questions you have about your treatment.
Change In Breast Shape Size And Colour
If youve had radiotherapy after breast-conserving surgery, the breast tissue on the treated side may feel firmer than before, or the breast may be smaller and look different.
Although this is normal, you may be concerned about differences in the size of your breasts, or worry that the difference is noticeable when youre dressed.
You can discuss this with your breast surgeon to see if anything can be done to make the difference less noticeable.
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Different Uses Of Radiotherapy
Depending on factors such as the location, type and stage of your cancer, and your age and general health, radiotherapy may be used:
- as the only treatment
- before surgery to shrink the tumour
- after surgery to kill off any remaining cancer cells
- as a method of pain relief and to ease symptoms such as bleeding.
Does Radiation Therapy Hurt
External radiation therapy won’t hurt. You won’t see or smell the radiation, however you may hear a buzzing sound when the machine is on. You will NOT be radioactive. It is safe to be in contact with other people, including pregnant women and children, when you are having treatment and afterwards.
During internal radiation therapy you may experience a little discomfort from the implant, however you should not have any severe pain or feel ill. While your radioactive implant is in place, it may send some radiation outside your body. There will be limits on visitors while your implant is in place.
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Will My Appetite Be Affected
Many side effects can cause problems with eating and digesting food, but you always should try to eat enough to help damaged tissues rebuild themselves. It’s very important not to lose weight during radiation therapy so that your body can heal. Try to eat small meals often and eat a variety of different foods. Your doctor or nurse can tell you whether your treatment calls for a special diet and a dietitian will have a lot of ideas to help you maintain your weight.
If you have pain when you chew and swallow, your doctor may advise you to use a powdered or liquid diet supplement. Many of these products, available at the drugstore without prescription, are made in a variety of flavors. They are tasty when used alone, or they can be combined with other foods, such as pureed fruit, or added to milkshakes. Some of the companies that make diet supplements have produced recipe booklets to help you increase your nutrient intake. Ask your dietitian or pharmacist for further information.
What side effects occur with radiation therapy to the head and neck area? Some people who are having radiation to the head and neck have redness and irritation in the mouth, a dry mouth, difficulty in swallowing, changes in taste or nausea. Try not to let these symptoms keep you from eating.
If Youre Having Radiation Therapy To The Pelvis
Radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause side effects such as:
- Bladder problems
- Fertility problems
- Changes in your sex life
You might also have some of the same problems people get from radiation to the abdomen, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
Radiation to the pelvis can cause problems with urination, including:
- Pain or burning sensations
- Blood in the urine
- An urge to urinate often
Most of these problems get better over time, but radiation therapy can cause longer-term side effects as well:
- Radiation cystitis. If the radiation damages the lining of the bladder, radiation cystitis can be a long-term problem that causes blood in the urine or pain when passing urine.
- Urinary incontinence. Radiation treatments for certain cancers, such as prostate and bladder cancer, may make you unable to control your urine or have leakage or dribbling. There are different types and degrees of incontinence, but it can be treated. Even if incontinence cant be corrected completely, it can still be helped. See Bladder and Bowel Incontinence to learn more. This side effect is most often a problem for men being treated for prostate cancer, but some of the information might also be helpful for women dealing with treatment-related incontinence.
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How Long Do Side Effects Last
Remember that the type of radiation side effects you might have depends on the prescribed dose and schedule. Most side effects go away within a few months of ending treatment. Some side effects may continue after treatment ends because it takes time for the healthy cells to recover from radiation.
Side effects might limit your ability to do some things. What you can do will depend on how you feel. Some patients are able to go to work or enjoy leisure activities while they get radiation therapy. Others find they need more rest than usual and cant do as much. If you have side effects that are bothersome and affecting your daily activities or health, the doctor may stop your treatments for a while, change the schedule, or change the type of treatment youre getting. Tell your cancer care team about any side affects you notice so they can help you with them.
What Side Effects Occur With Radiation Therapy To The Pelvis
If you are having radiation therapy to any part of the pelvis , you might have one or more of the digestive problems already described. You also may have some irritation to your bladder. This can cause discomfort or frequent urination. Drinking fluids can help relieve some of your discomfort. Your doctor can prescribe medication to deal with these problems.
There are also certain side effects that occur only in the reproductive organs. The effects of radiation therapy on sexual and reproductive functions depend on which organs are treated. Some of the more common side effects for both men and women do not last long after treatment. Others may be long-term or permanent. Before your treatment begins, ask your doctor about possible side effects and how long they might last.
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Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes
Radiotherapy is the single most effective non-surgical treatment of cancer. In terms of overall cost, radiotherapy consumes only 5% of total spending for cancer care while forming a significant part of the treatment plan for almost 40% of patients and is responsible for a cure in about 16%. There has been huge progress in the field to improve effectiveness and minimize side effects. Some techniques that can be used to reduce side effects are:
What Is The Radiation Therapy Treatment Process Like
Before beginning radiation therapy, patients will have a consultation with an oncologist . They will decide upon the most appropriate type of treatment and oversee the process. They may also order scans and other tests to determine the exact location and size of the cancer.
The patient must then give their permission to begin treatment. Before starting external radiation, it is common practice to carry out a simulation. This will give the patient an idea of what to expect during the sessions.
It is important to be comfortable during the treatment as it is necessary to stay very still. This might involve using aids like tape, foam supports, headrests, or plaster casts. If you feel uncomfortable during the simulation, discuss this with your oncology team.
After the simulation, the treatment plan will be reviewed and any changes made if necessary. Before beginning treatment, tiny but permanent marks are made on the skin. These show the radiation technician where to aim their beam.
The machine used for external radiation therapy can be quite noisy and may produce a strange smell. This is normal and not a cause for concern.
Treatment is usually given five days a week and each session lasts approximately 15 minutes. The total duration of treatment varies, but it often lasts three to nine weeks.
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