Radiation therapy contributes to the cure of many cancer patients in the country, but considering a number of associated risks and side effects involved, sometimes the entire procedure is labelled as high-risk treatment. Many times relatives of the patients deny this therapy even in the fear of death of the patient and resort to alternative medication fearing radiation. As a result, disease progresses and by the time they realise and come back for radiation, sometimes radiation doesn’t hold benefits anymore.
Denying treatment is surely not wise, only the right information and guidance is the key. These are manageable risks and fighting cancer should be the priority. Radiation therapy does ensure full recovery, then what exactly cancer patients more need to be aware about? Let’s get some details
What is Radiation therapy?
First of all radiation therapy is a procedure in which radiation beams target the tumour or cancer in the human body and help to shrink it. The therapy is conducted in multiple episodes and it may be recommended along with other cancer treatments or at different stages of the cancer which depends upon concerned cases.
In recent times much advancement has taken place in radiation therapy. Now gone are the days when fear of losing organs was major for such patients. Now radiation therapies so minutely target the tumour that the risk of damaging adjoining tissues and losing associated organs is very low, which also depends upon the stages of cancer. Only early and regular treatment can ensure successful results.
Medication for side effects:
Radiation can cause some side effects, which means there are some physical changes that happen during the treatment but they tend to go off with the time. There are some medications that suppress these side effects. Like some people have burning sensation in their throat who undergo radiation for neck and head area, then in process they are given mouthwashes, medicine etc which suppress this problem. Even in the cases where patients complain with not being able to eat and share about their food quality going down, their nourishment is ensured with alternative feeding techniques like ped tubes, feeding tubes which assist the patient to maintain nutrition during the treatment, also food supplements are provided.
Uninterrupted Radiation key to better results:
As mentioned earlier, radiation may be recommended at different stages of the cancer and side effects also vary as per cases and stages which are manageable at times with medication. Here uninterrupted treatment is the key. Patients should continue with the treatment and follow the doctor’s recommendations. It will ensure better recovery compared to someone who is not regular with the radiation therapy or taking unnecessary breaks in between. Also, associated risks are not as much which can potentially cause death; rather careless attitude towards treatment and reporting at later stages may lead to unwanted results. Also, the right selection and identification of patient for radiation are also important, this judgement is done by the doctor.
Risks and benefits discussion:
As per the stages comorbidities and age factor, every case is different in regards to the direction of treatment of cancer. Hence a combined discussion should be held by doctors with the patient and her/his relative about the treatment which involves risks and benefits of the treatment, how they will be managed and also leaving treatment in between can bring in more risk. For example in the case of a bedridden patient with poor performance status, the doctor should make relatives and patients (if they are adult) aware of the treatment and potential side effects it can cause. Cancer patients are already seen in the phase of unforeseen challenge of life; any harsh decision can affect their mental health. Doctors should make them confident about their fast recovery with the treatment they are undergoing because benefits caused by this therapy are more important than the associated risks. Doctors also share about the chances of cure as per the stages of the cancer. Hence never deny required treatment in the fear of risks.
Dr. Kanika Sharma, Clinical Lead & Senior Consultant – Oncology & Radiation Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi