Myths about Radiation Therapy
Myth 1-Radiation Therapy (RT) is painful.
Fact 1-Person undergoing radiation therapy does not feel pain/warmth/heat when it’s being actually given. It’s a painless treatment.
One may experience skin irritation, redness, and throat/mouth ulcer as a consequence of RT (which might lead to pain). But there is no pain while RT is being delivered in treatment room.
Myth 2-RT will make me radioactive and I can pass on this radiation to people/my family members near me. I should stay away from small kids at home.
Fact 2-Person receiving external RT or brachytherapy (Internal Radiation) does not become radioactive any time during treatment. Radiation one receives 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 RT.
Myth 3- RT causes hair loss from head/scalp.
Fact 3 -Only patients receiving RT to head lose their scalp hair (that too usually partially). If you are getting radiation on any other body part, you will not lose your scalp hair. Radiation causes only hair loss in local area being treated with RT. Patient receiving radiation to breast might lose some hair in arm pit or male patients with RT might lose facial/beard/moustache hair.
Myth 4- RT causes nausea/vomiting.
Fact 4-RT per se does not cause nausea / vomiting except when it’s being given along with chemotherapy or directed to abdominal area or to a very large area. To give an example breast RT might lead to some mild nausea but does not lead to vomiting.
Myth 5 -After RT a person feels warm and should take lot of cold food items.
Fact 5-RT does not lead to a feeling of heat or warmth. One should continue to take cold food / liquids as a person takes normally
Myth 6 There is no need /advantage of RT after complete removal of tumour.
Fact 6-Even after complete surgical removal of tumour, there are some cancer cells remaining in the operated area which sometimes can lead to disease recurrence. RT is usually given to decrease/ minimize the chances of local disease re occurrence. Oncologist will usually weigh the risk of local re occurrence and likely benefit of local radiation and accordingly advise you.
Myth 7- Radiation is supposed to prevent disease reoccurrence, but I think it can cause cancer.
Fact 7- Radiation in most of the cancers significantly improves disease control, decreases risk of local recurrence and increased curability.
Radiation can lead to so called ‘radiation induced cancers’ but the risk is one in 1000 to 10,000. So the benefit of radiation therapy far outweighs the risk.
Myth 8 Radiation leads to skin burns
Fact 8 RT dose not cause skin burning, however it does lead to redness, darkening, peeling of skin in the local area being treated. Magnitude of these side effects vary from person to person and also depend on area being treated and dose of RT. These effects are usually temporary and gradually improve after RT completion.
· Radiation therapy is a painless treatment.
· If you are getting radiation on any other body part, you will not lose your scalp hair.
· RT per se does not cause nausea / vomiting except when it’s being given along with chemotherapy.
· Radiation in most of the cancers significantly improves disease control, decreases risk of local recurrence and increased curability.