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Myths About Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is a common treatment for cancer but is misunderstood by many. The advantages of using radiotherapy to treat cancer are numerous. It is non-invasive and preserves organ function. It is one of the most common forms of cancer treatment.

Cancers of the breast, brain, head and neck, prostate, bladder, cervix and uterus, skin, lung, oesophageal, anal and lymphomas are commonly treated with radiotherapy.

However, there are some common misunderstandings or myths about radiotherapy. Here are some of them.

Myth 1 : Radiation therapy is painful.

Fact – Patients who come for radiation therapy say that radiation causes pain. which is a myth as radiations are used to eliminate the pain.

For example, if the disease is in bone, or it’s in soft tissue or maybe in a lump, then doctors give radiation to reduce the lump, which in turn reduces the pain.

Myth 2 : Radiation therapy will cause me to be radioactive.

Fact – Patients generally ask doctors that exposure to radiations can make them radioactive which emits radio waves?

which is a myth as radioactive waves last in the human body for 5-10 minute, at the time of treatment, Once your treatment is over, your body will bounce back to normalcy.

Radiation received gets absorbed in your body tissues and there is no lingering radiation later on. It’s absolutely safe to stay with family and friends while you are on Radiation therapy.

Myth 3 : Radiation therapy causes hair loss

Fact – Its a myth as every treatment doesn’t involve hair loss. One of the side effects of radiation is hair loss for some treatment.

For example, If any part of the brain is to be treated, then there are chances of hair fall, but they come back after a few months.

Myth 4 : Radiation therapy will increase my chance of getting more cancer.

Fact – Which is also called as Second Cancer is common but its prevalence or the probability of cancer relapsing is about 15-20years. It has an incidence of hardly 1-5%.

Whenever in the treatment of cancer, doctors intentions are fixed in removing cancer which is present in the body. If the patients do not undergo radiation therapy then exiting cancer can create lot of damage to the patient’s body.

Therefore we way weigh the risk and benefits of radiation therapy and accordingly decide whether he/she should go radiation therapy or not.

Radiation in most of the cancers significantly improves disease control, decreases the risk of local recurrence and increases curability.

Radiation can lead to so-called ‘radiation-induced cancers’ but the risk is low. So the benefit of radiation therapy far outweighs the risk.

Myth 5 : Radiation therapy will cause nausea and vomiting.

Fact – Nausea or vomiting is site-dependent. Depending on which part of the body the patients have been taking radiations for example if the patient is undergoing radiation therapy on stomach or pelvis than there are chances of nausea but the doctor does provide medications to control before the initiation

of the treatment. Radiation therapy per se does not cause nausea/vomiting except when it’s being given along with chemotherapy or directed to an abdominal area.

To give an example breast radiations might lead to some mild nausea but does not lead to vomiting.

Myth 6 : Is it safe for babies to be around radiation patients?

Fact – This is one of the common question asked by patients. Patients think that once they undergo radiotherapy they tend to spread the radiations to the kids they have been around with.

This is a myth, the patients is in normal once he is done with radiation session. They can spend quality time with kids around as it will not pass on any radiations.

10 or 20 years ago, radiotherapy therapy was a complicated procedure, which used to cause skin burn, mouth ulcers, vomiting and hair loss in patients.

But over the years the radiation therapy has been reached to its advance stages, there has been inclusion on many advance techniques which only focuses on the tumour which has reduced the complication rate from 20% to 10 to 5%.

Radiation therapy has fewer complications and treating the tumour. There have been newer techniques in the field of radiotherapy like

IGRT (Image Guiding Radiation Therapy) and SRI (Stereotacticradio Therapy) which can treat/target tumour of 1cm / coin-sized and it spares normal tissues around the tumour. New technologies have made this therapy become advance and safe.

Have queries or concern ?

    About Author


    Dr. Sanjay Hunugundmath

    Consultant Radiation Oncology
    Contact: +91 88888 22222
    Email – [email protected]

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