Is Radiation for Cancer Painful? An Expert's Perspective

Radiation therapy is a common treatment for cancer that can be an effective way to target tumors and reduce pain. Learn more about potential side effects from an expert's perspective.

Is Radiation for Cancer Painful? An Expert's Perspective

Radiation therapy is a common treatment for cancer, and it can be an effective way to target tumors and reduce pain. But it's important to understand the potential side effects of radiation therapy, as well as the ways in which it can be used to manage pain. In this article, we'll explore the potential effects of radiation therapy on cancer pain, as well as the ways in which it can be used to reduce discomfort. Radiation therapy is a type of treatment that uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells. It is typically used to target tumors, but it can also affect some of the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.

While most people don't feel pain when each treatment is given, the effects of radiation therapy can build up over time and cause discomfort, skin changes, or other side effects. To reduce these effects, radiation treatments are often interrupted with two days off each week to allow the body time to repair any damage. The effects of radiation therapy may not go away until the treatment period is complete. It's important to tell health professionals if you are experiencing any side effects. External radiation typically takes a few weeks to work, but seven out of ten people report that they have had at least half their pain reduced after treatment.

For some people, radiation therapy completely eliminates pain. Radiologists plan treatments very carefully to reduce side effects. While some patients have few or no side effects from radiation therapy, others may experience some discomfort. These side effects are usually short-term and can be treated. Regardless of the type of therapy you receive, doctors and nurses are trained to help manage any side effects. It's very important to stay still during radiation treatments.

You don't need to hold your breath and you won't feel anything during treatment. You won't see, hear, or smell the radiation either. Radiation therapy can be used to control pain caused by secondary bone cancer and it can be combined with other types of treatment depending on the type of cancer you have. If you receive internal radiation therapy with seed implants, talk to your cancer care team about safety precautions during sexual intercourse. The risk of throat changes depends on the amount of radiation you receive, whether you also receive chemotherapy, and whether you use tobacco and alcohol while receiving radiation therapy. You may have different side effects depending on the type of cancer you have and where in your body radiation therapy is given.

Coughing, often a symptom of the disease, can be caused by cancer treatment, especially radiation to the chest. Radiation pneumonitis is inflammation of the lungs that can be caused by radiation therapy to the chest (or less commonly, to the breast).Medication can be used in people with head and neck cancer to reduce mouth problems caused by radiation therapy. At checkups, your doctor will talk to you about how you feel, monitor you to see how well the radiation has worked, and look for any signs of cancer. This is not as common today as it was in the past because modern radiation therapy equipment allows doctors to better focus radiation beams on the area with cancer with less effect on other areas. Radiation not only kills cancer cells but it can also damage healthy cells in the glands that produce saliva and the moist lining of the mouth. The higher the dose of radiation (and the younger the person), the more likely it is for side effects to occur but overall risk is small and should not prevent people who need radiation from receiving it.

The American Cancer Society offers programs and services to help during and after cancer treatment. Another concern with radiation therapy is that it could cause new cancer to form in the part of the body that was treated. Fox Chase Cancer Center offers a Women's Sexual and Menopausal Health Program and a Men's Sexual Health Program and an Erectile Dysfunction Clinic to help patients adapt to changes during and after cancer treatment. The two side effects that most commonly affect patients receiving radiation therapy for breast cancer are fatigue and skin changes. Many people experience fatigue, sensitive skin at the site of radiation exposure, and emotional distress during radiation therapy. Possible side effects of radiation therapy depend on the area of the body being treated and the amount of radiation being used.