The Truth Behind Three Radiation Therapy Myths

Health & Medical Articles

According the National Cancer Institute, there will be over 1.6 million cases of cancer diagnosed this year. Thanks to advances in modern medicine, however, being told you have cancer doesn't automatically mean a death sentence. Radiation therapy can be an effective treatment for certain cancers, but there are a variety of myths surrounding this remedy that keep many people from trying it. Here is the truth behind three common myths associated with radiation treatment.

Myth #1 – Radiation Therapy Will Make You Go Bald

Possibly one of the most pervasive myths about radiation therapy is that it causes people to lose their hair. With cancer patients in movies and television often being portrayed as bald, it's no wonder that this is likely the first thing people think of when a doctor recommends they undergo this treatment to battle their diseases.

The truth is that radiation therapy does cause hair loss, but only in the area subjected to the treatment. This means that if you're trying to eradicate cervical cancer, you'll only lose the hair on your genitals, not your head. The only time you would lose the hair on your head is if you were being given radiation treatment in that area.

It should be noted that if you are undergoing chemotherapy at the same time you're receiving radiation treatment, you likely will lose the hair on your head. However, that's because of the chemotherapy and not the radiation. While radiation treatment is localized, the chemicals given during chemotherapy go throughout the entire body and affect all parts, and one of the unfortunate side effects of chemo is hair loss.

Myth #2 – Radiation Therapy Hurts a Lot

Another common myth about radiation therapy is it is very painful. In reality, radiation therapy is just like getting an x-ray. It doesn't hurt, though you may feel warmth in the area that's being treated. The only time you may feel pain is from the position the technician has you assume so he or she can direct the treatment. For instance, if you need to raise your arm for a length of time, it may hurt to hold it in place after awhile.

Having said that, though, certain side effects may develop as a result of the radiation treatment that may cause discomfort. For instance, you may get a sort of sunburn after repeated treatments, which can be painful. The skin in the treatment area many become dry and irritated, causing discomfort. The radiation specialist can recommend a few things you can do to take care of your skin to minimize the risk of these occurring and to help mitigate any pain you may feel because of the side effects.

Myth #3 – You'll Become Radioactive

A fear many people have about radiation therapy is that it will make them radioactive in some way, which may harm loved ones they come into contact with after the treatment. This is partially true. If you receive internal treatment where you must ingest a radioactive material designed to treat the cancer from the inside out, you will be radioactive for the time it takes that material to pass through your system. You will typically be required to sit in a private room until that happens.

However, if you receive an external treatment, you won't exude any residual radiation. You can go home immediately and don't have to worry about passing on radioactive atoms to other people you may be around after your treatment.

Radiation therapy can be very beneficial for treating cancer, so you shouldn't let misconceptions put you off considering this option. For more information about these or other rumors you may have heard about this therapy, talk to a radiation specialist at a location like the Provision Center For Proton Therapy about your concerns.


18 October 2016

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