10 Bad Side Effects of Radiation Treatments
Radiation therapy is frequently used in the difficult treatment of colorectal cancer, which is a dangerous condition. Although this treatment has the potential to reduce tumor size and eradicate cancer cells, there are several potential negative effects.
Individuals receiving radiation therapy for colorectal cancer may encounter many unfavorable symptoms. These adverse effects might affect a patient’s quality of life and capacity to carry out everyday activities. They can range in severity from minor to severe.
If you have ever been here to my site previously you are familiar with my story and some articles I have written in the past where I talk about subjects which I have experienced as being important to a new Ostomy Patient.
One post that I find will be helpful to you is you can go to How to Get Through the Radiation Treatments for Colorectal Cancer, this post is a deep inside look at how I got through my radiation treatments. Now several years later I am sharing my story 10 years past and some things to be aware of for your journey. Education from experience I call it.
1. Let’s Get Personal Here For a Few Minutes.
Back in the fall of 2013, I experienced some of these side effects personally.
My personal assigned treatment to reduce the size of my cancerous tumor was 27 radiation treatments as well as some Chemo taken with pills.
Then I had colorectal surgery scheduled 2 1/2 months after the radiation treatments were concluded.
The Cancer doctor was pleased with how the tumor shrunk up so well.
He had done his job and surgery was performed on December 13, 2013.
However, 10 years later I have found that I now have a half burned to a crisp bladder. It is now unresponsive and I just spent 9 months with a local urologist figuring out why I have such active leakage and why my bladder refuses on its own to retain urine.
I now have a sacral stimulator to aid in more proper bladder operations. You can read my post titled My sacral stimulator aids my daily body functions.
This was one large side effect that I wasn’t aware of a possibility of this happening.
Moving back to personally reported things that can go wrong.
Follow me as I take you through my mindset at the beginning of my cancer journey. I was totally unaware of all of these things I want to talk about now. If you read
Living With An Ostomy-The Struggle and My Story As a Colorectal Cancer Patient both of these posts you can sense my naivete towards all of this. I believe my eyes are wide open now as to the real dangers that are present and could be part of your future from your cancer treatments.
Let’s get to side effects number 2- number 10. Next what to look for. Be Aware of any or all of these happening to you.
Manage Symptoms of Side Effects.
Here are some normal things you may experience.
To anticipate and manage side effects correctly, patients and their healthcare professionals must have a thorough understanding of them. Among the common complaints include changes in bowel habits, skin problems, and weariness.
It is crucial to remember that not every patient will suffer every side effect and that the degree of discomfort can vary depending on many circumstances, including the patient’s general health and the specifics of their treatment.
By adjusting treatment to meet each patient’s unique needs, healthcare staff strive to minimize these side effects. They provide numerous interventions and support to help with good symptom management.
To receive the best care and support possible during their treatment journey, patients are encouraged to be open and honest with their doctors about any side effects they may encounter Table of Contents
Table of Contents
2. Gastrointestinal Complications
A variety of gastrointestinal adverse effects might result from radiation therapies directed against the colon region. Comprehending these problems is crucial, as they have the potential to drastically affect a patient’s quality of life and necessitate further procedures.
Nausea and Vomiting
Radiation damage to the stomach and adjacent tissues can cause nausea in patients, which can then result in vomiting. To treat these symptoms, doctors may prescribe antiemetic drugs. read this article for more information.
Types and Side Effects of Antiemetic Drugs
Since radiation can irritate the lining of the intestines, diarrhea is a typical side effect. Its severity can be managed with a modified diet and adequate hydration.
3. Skin Reactions
Skin reactions have a major negative impact on a patient’s comfort and quality of life as a side effect of radiation therapy for colorectal cancer. Radiation dermatitis, which varies in intensity, and dryness with itching are the two major ways they usually appear.
One frequent and frequently anticipated side effect of radiation therapy is radiation dermatitis. It manifests as an acute cutaneous reaction that can vary in severity from mild redness and soreness to blistering and peeling. In particular, one could note:
Skin redness or erythema in mild cases of dermatitis.
Moderate Dermatitis: Increasing redness, maybe accompanied by swelling and the start of itching or pain.
Severe Dermatitis: The afflicted area may peel skin, or it may be “wet” dermatitis that oozes and blisters.
Itching and Dryness
Following radiation therapy, patients may also have severe itching (pruritus) and dry skin. If this discomfort continues, it may result in:
Skin Dryness Texture that is roughened, flaking, or scaling.
Itching: A persistent, irritating feeling that can cause you to scratch, which irritates your skin even more.
To manage these symptoms, patients must practice proper skin care. For detailed advice and treatment choices, patients should speak with their healthcare team.
4. Immune System Effects
The immune system of a patient receiving radiation therapy for colorectal cancer may be specifically and quantifiably affected. The way that radiation interacts with the body’s inherent defenses results in these effects.
Reduced Level of White Blood Cells
Patients with colorectal cancer may experience leukopenia, or a decrease in white blood cells, as a result of radiation therapy directed towards the pelvic area. As the body’s main line of defense against infections, a decrease in white blood cell counts might increase a patient’s susceptibility to a variety of diseases.
These persons must take additional measures to prevent contracting infectious infections both during and after their treatment.
5. Try Fatigue On For Size
I did experience fatigue quite a bit. The treatments are there pounding on you every day.
Individuals receiving radiation treatment for colorectal cancer may endure weeks or even months of severe fatigue. Patients may experience persistently low levels of physical, emotional, and cerebral energy, which makes it challenging for them to carry out their daily duties.
Anemia or sleep patterns being disturbed are two consequences of radiation therapy that add to exhaustion. Being tired doesn’t usually get better with rest, therefore it’s a continuous problem.
6. Sexual Health Issues
Sexual health problems can arise from colorectal cancer radiation treatments. These may have varying impacts on various people and stem from radiation’s direct or indirect effects on hormones and sexual functions.
Patients may experience sexual dysfunction as a consequence of radiation therapy aimed at treating colorectal cancer. The following points elaborate on this issue:
- Erectile Dysfunction (ED) in Males: Radiation can damage the blood vessels and nerves responsible for an erection, leading to ED.
Severity Time of Onset Duration Mild to Severe Immediately to Years Post-Treatment Temporary to Permanent
- Vaginal Changes in Females: Women might undergo changes that make intercourse painful, such as vaginal stenosis (narrowing or shortening of the vagina) caused by the formation of scar tissue.
Vaginal StenosisPainful IntercourseUse of vaginal dilators>Lubricants and moisturizers
Issue Resultant Condition Possible Interventions
- Libido Alterations: Both men and women may experience a decrease in sexual desire due to the psychological impact of cancer treatment or the alteration of hormone levels.
- Impact on Fertility: Potential loss of fertility can occur, as radiation may affect the reproductive organs, reducing the production of sperm in men and eggs in women.
7. Urinary Problems
Patients receiving radiation treatments for colorectal cancer may encounter various urinary issues. These complications arise due to radiation’s impact on the bladder and surrounding tissues.
Symptoms: Patients may experience symptoms of bladder irritation, which often manifest as:
- Frequency: An increased need to urinate.
- Urgency: A sudden, compelling urge to urinate.
- Discomfort: Pain or burning sensations during urination.
- Hydration: Getting enough drinks can assist in lessening irritation and diluting pee.
- Dietary Adjustments: Avoiding irritants like caffeine and acidic foods may alleviate symptoms.
- Medications: Prescribed medications can help to ease inflammation and discomfort.
These urinary issues typically resolve after treatment concludes, but some individuals may have lingering effects. Patients are encouraged to report any urinary symptoms to their healthcare provider for appropriate management.
Emotional and Cognitive Changes
Individuals receiving radiation treatments for colorectal cancer may face emotional and cognitive challenges as a direct effect of the therapy. Radiation can influence mood and cognitive function, potentially leading to depression and memory loss.
Patients may go through a major emotional shift during or after radiation therapy, with a tendency toward depression. Prolonged melancholy, disinterest in hobbies, and social disengagement are the hallmarks of this illness. These shifts in emotional state could be attributed in part to the physiological changes brought on by radiation.
9. Memory Loss
Radiation treatments can also lead to memory loss, which patients may notice as difficulty recalling recent events or information. This cognitive side effect, sometimes referred to as “chemo brain” even when caused by radiation, can manifest as forgetfulness or the inability to concentrate. Cognitive functions are sensitive to the impacts of radiation and may be temporarily or permanently affected.
10. Potential Risk of Secondary Cancer
When patients undergo radiation treatments for colorectal cancer, they face a potential risk of developing a secondary cancer. Secondary cancers are new types of cancer that occur as a direct consequence of treatment for the original cancer.
- Probability: The risk of a secondary cancer is relatively small but notable.
- Location: Secondary cancers may arise in or near the field of radiation.
The types of secondary cancers vary, but the following are possibilities:
- Bone Cancer
- Bladder Cancer
- Blood Cancers
Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles to destroy cancer cells, but in the process, it can also affect healthy cells. Over time, the DNA damage in these healthy cells can lead to another form of cancer.
Factors influencing risk:
- Dose of radiation: Higher doses can increase risk.
- Treatment area: Certain body areas are more susceptible.
- Age: Younger patients may have a higher risk over their lifetime.
- Personal genetics: Individual genetic predispositions play a role.
Monitoring is crucial post-treatment to detect any early signs of secondary cancer. Regular follow-ups with a healthcare provider are highly recommended to manage the overall risk.