Radiotherapy

What precautions should I take during my radiotherapy treatment?

Wash the treated area with mild soap and water. Dry with a soft towel, without rubbing.

Do not use creams, lotions, powders, deodorants, perfumes, medications or any other substance in the irradiated area without the guidance of the treatment team.

Only use some type of dressing on the skin with the guidance of your doctor.

Do not use hot water or ice packs, lamps or any other material on the skin undergoing treatment.

Protect skin exposed to sunlight by using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater.

Prefer clothes made of cotton. Avoid synthetic fabrics such as nylon, lycra or mixed fabrics with a lot of synthetic fiber.

Avoid wearing tight clothes.

Can I use cream on the area treated with radiotherapy?

Radiation therapy can cause redness, peeling and burning of the skin. It is not recommended to apply any substance in the irradiated area without the guidance of the treatment team. Only neutral, alcohol-free moisturizing creams are usually authorized by doctors.

What are the main side effects of radiotherapy?

Each person reacts differently to radiotherapy, and the intensity of these effects depends on the dose of treatment and the extent of the irradiated area. It is common for the skin covering the irradiated area to present redness, burning, itching and change in color (darkening).

Side effects also vary depending on the part of the body treated:

Head: hair loss, nausea and vomiting may occur.

Mouth and neck: There may be difficulty eating due to inflammation of the lining of the mouth and throat (mucositis).

Chest: there may be a dry cough, due to inflammation of the bronchi (cylindrical structures that carry air into the lungs), or difficulty in eating, due to mucositis in the esophagus (cylindrical organ that carries food to the stomach).

Abdomen: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea may occur.

Basin: there may be a burning sensation to urinate and/or defecate. In women, vaginal dryness may occur, with discomfort during sexual intercourse. In men, there may be decreased ejaculation fluid when the prostate is irradiated.

In addition to these treatment-area-dependent effects, patients undergoing radiotherapy may experience fatigue. Usually, the side effects disappear gradually after the treatment is finished.

Radiotherapy can also cause some so-called late side effects, as they occur months or years after the end of treatment. These side effects are rarer, but they can also be more serious. Consult your doctor about possible late side effects of radiation therapy.

What will I feel during and after radiation therapy?

Usually, the patient does not feel anything during and immediately after the application of radiotherapy. Any side effects of radiation therapy usually take a few days to appear. Usually, side effects do not come on abruptly; they develop insidiously over the course of radiotherapy. Except in special situations, which will be duly explained by the radiotherapist, the patient can go alone to the radiotherapy service, resuming their normal activities at the end of the treatment.

How does radiotherapy work on cancer?

Radiotherapy works by altering the structure of different molecules inside cells, especially DNA. The electrically charged and accelerated particles, resulting from the interaction of ionizing radiation with the organism, can act directly or indirectly on DNA, causing damage to the structure of DNA molecules.

The DNA alteration caused by radiotherapy in tumor cells leads to the destruction of these cells. This effect is also observed on normal cells, which can cause the side effects of radiotherapy.

However, the way radiotherapy is administered, the dose applied and the interval between applications were studied in order to allow a greater effect on cancer and a lesser effect on normal cells.

In addition, the radiotherapist, during the treatment preparation phase, seeks the most appropriate way to apply the maximum recommended dose to the tumor, with the least possible exposure of healthy tissues. In this way, the treatment aims at the highest probability of cure, with the lowest possible incidence of side effects.

Can radiotherapy be close to pregnant women, babies and children?

Yup. Radiation does not restrict the patient’s contact with other people. In the procedure, the patient’s body is externally traversed by radiation. Radiation is not absorbed. Thus, the person does not become “radioactive”.