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World Cancer Day 2020: Know how to deal with side effects of radiation therapy

Most common side-effects of this treatment procedure are fatigue, irritation at the treatment site, discoloration of skin and ulcers. @Shutterstock

Today is World Cancer Day. This disease can be debilitating and treatment procedures like radiation therapy can leave you drained because of the many side-effects. Know how to deal with it.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Updated : February 4, 2020 12:18 PM IST

Today is World Cancer Day. This day is dedicated to increasing awareness about and dispelling the misconceptions that surround this this disease. The most common treatment procedure for cancer is radiation therapy. This is done to shrink the size of the tumor and burn the cancer cells. However, though this is an effective procedure, it comes with severe side-effects that can take a huge toll on a person's health. But what is radiation therapy? It is of 2 types. One is the external beam therapy, which uses a specialized machine to direct beams to the exact location of the tumor. The other is internal radiation therapy, where a solid or liquid form of radiation is introduced into the body. On the occasion of World Cancer Day today, let us look at how you can deal with the side effects of this treatment procedure.

Radiation therapy side-effects

Most common side-effects of this treatment procedure are fatigue, irritation at the treatment site, discoloration of skin and ulcers. Some people experience more adverse reactions than others. Hair loss may also happen as can dry mouth, oral sores, impaired saliva production and difficulty swallowing. You may also experience a stiff shoulder, cough, fever and breathlessness. In some cases, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting also happens. The side-effects can sometimes leave you feeling more sick than the cancer itself. It saps your energy and leaves you exhausted.

What you can do

You need to take extra care of yourself when you are undergoing radiation therapy. Diet is very important here. Plan balanced meals and add nutrient-rich foods to your diet. You need to keep your strength up and increase your immunity. You may not feel hungry. But force yourself to eat. If it is difficult for you to swallow have nutrient-dense soups instead.

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You must also take rest and allow your body to recuperate from the grueling radiation therapy sessions. This will help you recover fast. Take care not to unnecessarily irritate the area that has undergone the treatment. Wear loose clothes so that it does not irritate the skin. It is difficult to even think of any physical activity but try and get in some exercise. This is important for recovery. Slowly walking around the house will also help.

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