How to reduce the side effects of radiotherapy?

November 2, 2020


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Although each patient may react differently to radiation therapy, it is normal to experience side effects such as general fatigue and skin irritation. These effects depend on the type of cancer, the location, the dose of radiation and the state of health of the person.

According to the American Cancer Society, radiation therapy can cause early and late side effects.

  • Early side effects occur during or shortly after treatment. These side effects tend to be short-lived, mild and treatable. They usually disappear within a few weeks after finishing all the treatment. Most of the initial side effects are fatigue and changes in the skin. Other initial side effects are usually related to the area under treatment, such as hair loss or mouth problems that occur after receiving treatment in this area.
  • Late side effects can take months or even years to manifest. They can occur in any normal tissue in the body that has received radiation. The risk of late side effects depends on the area treated, as well as the radiation dose used. Careful treatment planning can help avoid serious long-term side effects.

Side effects of radiation often begin during the second or third week of treatment depending on the prescribed dose and treatment plan. Most of them disappear within a few months of finishing the treatment. Some may continue after finishing treatment because it takes time for healthy cells to recover from the effects of radiation.

Meanwhile, there are ways to reduce the discomfort they may cause. If the side effects you experience become more severe, the doctor may stop the treatments for some time, as well as recommend a change in the plan or the type of treatment you are receiving.

Some recommendations to reduce the side effects of radiotherapy are:

  • Avoid exposure of treated skin to the sun or heat sources.
  • Receive the treatment without creams or oils on the radiated skin.
  • Try to use clean, loose cotton clothing.
  • Use only warm water and mild soap.
  • Consult with the cancer care team before shaving the treated area.
  • Take two or two and a half liters of water a day.

How does the hyperbaric chamber help reduce the side effects of radiation therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygenation treatment is effective when is combined with conventional treatments for cancer. It is very beneficial before and after surgery because it stimulates healing and accelerates recovery times. Although it does not cure cancer, the strong hyperoxia that the hyperbaric chamber generates brings oxygen to all the tissues of the body, including the tumors. This decreases the growth of the same and favors its retraction. In addition, hyperoxia makes irradiation more sensitive, which is why radiotherapy is more effective.

The hyperbaric treatment improves or eliminates burns and radiation-induced lesions, favors the general condition of the patient and their skin, increases their appetite and improves their sleep. In cases in which radiotherapy is applied, oxygenation in the hyperbaric chamber is indicated by international organizations for the recovery of the injuries produced by the rays.

Hyperbaric oxygen has an anti-inflammatory effect and strengthens the vascular system, the osteoarticular, the immune and the central nervous system.


American Cancer Society