Cancer cells divide and rapidly grow than those of the healthy cells in the human body. Radiation therapy is a kind of cancer treatment which delivers high energy waves such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons to destroy rapidly dividing cells. Though it may also damage healthy tissues (which are kept on low levels), the series of therapies gives healthy cells the chance to repair themselves in between treatments. Same amount of dose is given each day and may be prolonged depending on (1) the tumor being treated, (2) the intention of the treatment, and (3) the individual patient being treated.

How Does Radiation Therapy Work in the Body?

By damaging the cancer cell’s DNA which carries the genetic information of an individual, they could be destroyed. Thus, the therapy can either directly damage the DNA or create free radicals (charged particles) inside the cell which damage it. As the cancer cells DNA cannot be repaired, it stops dividing and die and the human body eliminates it through natural processes.

Does it Affect Other Parts of the Body?

Aside from fatigue and skin problems which are the most common effects of radiation therapy, it could also affect specific areas of the body that are being treated.

Radiation Therapy to the Brain

Although, the side effects may only be short-term, these include:

  • Headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Hearing loss
  • Skin and scalp change
  • Memory and Speech problems
  • Seizure

Radiation Therapy to the Head and/or Neck

  • Soreness in the mouth or throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Problem in swallowing
  • Changes in taste
  • Nausea
  • Earaches
  • Tooth decay
  • Gums, throat, or neck swelling
  • Hair loss
  • Changes in skin texture

Radiation Therapy to the Breast

  • Irritation, dryness, and color changes of the skin
  • Breast soreness
  • Breast swelling

Radiation Therapy to the Chest

  • Sore throat
  • Problems in Swallowing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Radiation Therapy to the Abdomen

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Belly cramps
  • Diarrhea

Radiation Therapy to the pelvis

  • Bladder problems
  • Fertility problems
  • Changes in sex performance


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