What You Should Know About Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is commonly used in the treatment of breast cancer. If you are new to this type of therapy, it can seem frightening. However, during the procedure, you should not feel any pain. If your oncologist has recommended radiation therapy, here is what you need to know.  

What Happens During Treatment?

During radiation therapy, high-energy beams are directed into your body. The technician will direct you to lie on a table to start the treatment. At that point, a machine known as a linear accelerator moves around your body. As it moves or circles around your body, the beams are directed to your body.  

Since the therapy is designed to target breast cancer, you will be asked to raise your arm above your head. The arm on the same side as the breast that is being targeted by the treatment is the one that must be raised.  

It is imperative that you remain still during treatment to ensure the radiation therapy is properly distributed throughout the affected area. The therapy lasts only a few minutes.  

Are There Side Effects?

As with most cancer treatments, there are some side effects of which you should be aware. Fatigue is one of the side effects that you are most likely to experience. Fatigue can leave you feeling drained and overwhelmed. It can also interfere with your ability to work and socialize.  

The fatigue can last varying periods of time. Sometimes the fatigue is related to a specific cause that your oncologist can target and treat. For instance, if the fatigue is due to a mineral imbalance, your doctor can recommend a change to your diet or supplements and vitamins you can take to get relief from your symptoms. 

You can also experience other side effects, such as red and irritated skin, hair loss, and appetite changes. Appetite changes must be addressed by your treatment providers. Although you might have trouble with eating, it is important that you do so to provide your body with the nourishment needed to help it fight the cancer.  

Your doctor could recommend attempting to stick to a diet that allows you to eat several small meals throughout the day, which could make it easier to eat. You also should meet with a dietician to discuss ways you can pack on more calories during those small meals so you can make the most out of them without having to force yourself to eat more than you feel like. 

Radiation therapy is just one of the treatment options available for breast cancer. Talk to your oncologist about other treatment options that could potentially work for you.