Radiation therapy has long been one of the most common and effective treatments for certain types of cancer, including cancers of the brain stem, prostate, and eye. But as common as radiation is, most people do not know that much about it, even if their doctor has recently recommended that they undergo this therapy. As such, here are some facts to clear up any potential misconceptions you might have about radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy hurts.
Radiation therapy does cause some unpleasant side effects, including nausea and muscle soreness. However, if you have images in your mind of sitting in a device that delivers painful waves of radiation into your body, that's simply not accurate. You won't actually feel a thing when you're getting radiation treatment. The negative side effects only arise afterward, and doctors can administer anti-nausea and pain relief medications to keep them from becoming too severe.
Radiation causes you to lose your hair.
Chemotherapy, a different type of cancer treatment, is often confused with radiation. Chemo can lead to hair loss, although it does not always happen. Radiation is unlikely to cause hair loss. If you need radiation performed on your head, your doctor may have to shave part of your hair to administer the therapy safely, and a little hair may fall out of the area that is directly treated, but you won't go bald.
Radiation just delays your cancer.
There are different forms of this myth. Some people may say radiation just pauses the cancer. Others might believe that it will heal your cancer, but only to cause another cancer down the road. It's important to understand that radiation exposure through radiation therapy can increase your risk of cancer later on. However, that risk increase is marginal, and it is easily outweighed by the fact that radiation can effectively treat the cancer you have right now. Some people who have radiation get cancer again later on, but most do not. Your doctor can give you more specific numbers related to the type of cancer you have and the intensity of radiation treatment you're due to receive. However, your doctor likely recommended this treatment because the reward far outweighs the risks.
Radiation treatment has a long track record of success. Although it can cause some nausea and soreness in the short-term, it's not overly painful, does not cause significant hair loss, and does not greatly increase your risk of developing cancer a second time. For more information, contact a cancer radiation treatment service.