Cancer Survivors: Do You Know About The Potential Late Effects of Radiation

You survived cancer!

Luckily, there are more people getting to say these words.  Every year, the survivor rate goes up thanks to new advances and improvements in effective treatment options.

One of those effective treatment options is radiation therapy.  For more than half of patients with cancer, this is the lifeline they need to beat the disease.  As with many things in medicine, radiation therapy is necessary and extremely effective, but it is not without its challenges.

The acute effects of radiation are experienced to some degree by most everyone undergoing the therapy.  These symptoms often go away, but some may linger on long after the treatment is finished.  The symptoms may be the same.   Here are some examples of the types of symptoms you might experience based on the part of the body that is treated.

Brain: memory loss, problems concentrating, slow processing of information, personality changes, and/or movement problems.

Head and Neck: dry mouth, cavities, bone loss in the jaw, difficulty swallowing, and/or pain.

Breast: pain, and/or delayed healing following a medical procedure.

Lung and Chest: wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough, congestion, feeling tired, and/or pain.

Lymph Nodes: fluid buildup resulting in swelling in the area treated with radiation.

Abdomen: generalized pain.

Pelvic Area: pain, urgency, blood in urine, and/or discharge.

Skin: slow healing after an injury or surgical procedure.

As you read through these, you might have recognized that many of these symptoms are fairly general and could easily be confused with other conditions.  This makes it difficult for you and even for your physician to connect the dots between your symptoms and the radiation you received as a cause; especially if it has been years since your treatment ended.

What should you do?  If you’re experiencing a symptom of any kind in the area that received radiation, notify your physician, and remind them you had radiation treatment.  Don’t ignore the symptoms and don’t accept them as your new normal.  There may be treatment that can help reduce or even eliminate your symptoms all together and your local Wound Care and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center could have the answer.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has long been successfully used in the treatment of the late effects of radiation.  In some cases, it’s the only treatment available.

Click here to watch a story about Leslie Maynor, a cancer survivor. To find a Wound Care and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center near you, click here.

Author: Carolyn Shinn, RN, BSN, CWS, CPXP – Vice President, Clinical and Quality Process Excellence