Radiation: What to Expect
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Lung cancer treatment can be stressful. Knowing what to expect from radiation can help ease that stress.
Speaker 1: When facing lung cancer, your doctor might recommend radiation. Knowing what to expect can help ease some of the anxiety that comes with cancer treatment. Every person's journey is different. So be sure to speak with your doctor if you have any questions.
Before radiation. Your first radiation session is a simulation and does not involve treatment. The team will position your body and use imaging scans to help direct the radiation beam. The tumor's location may be marked on your scan with a small temporary marking. You may be fitted for an immobilizer which will help you stay in the same position each treatment.
After the simulation, your team will design a treatment plan. Ask your doctor about any possible side effects and a plan to help manage them. During radiation. Radiation is designed to only target cancer cells and not affect other parts of the body. Two main types of radiation are used for lung cancer. External beam radiation comes from a machine located outside the body. Treatments are usually short and painless, and given about five times a week. Though each person's overall experience may vary.
Internal radiation therapy or Brachytherapy is when radioactive sources are placed in or near the tumor, which may mean a short hospital stay. Remember eat enough calories and protein. Your body uses a lot of energy to heal during radiation. And get plenty of rest. After radiation. Some side effects may occur. Skin blistering or dryness, sore throat, trouble swallowing, coughing and shortness of breath are all common.
Most side effects go away within two months but late side effects may occur. Your doctor can prescribe medication with therapies to help with these side effects. Once you finish radiation, you will likely need check ups. At first, these may happen every few months, then annually for several years. Every person's recovery time and experience is different but focusing on one's well being is important for every person going through treatment. That includes getting the supportive care you need to help you with your recovery, leaning on others for support so you can rest, and keeping in touch with your doctor throughout the process.
Knowledge is power. By being proactive during your treatment, you put the power in your own hands. The American Lung Association is solely responsible for content.
Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed November 19, 2018.