Cervical cancer is a widespread cancer that affects the reproductive organ of a woman, especially the cervix, upper vaginal canal etc. Though the instances of this cancer have come down tremendously after the introduction of Pap smear test, many women still succumb to cervical cancer due to late detection and related complications. Radiation therapy is one of the treatment methods used for cervical cancer.
Radiation therapy is normally administered during the advanced stages of cancer and also at the times of recurrence. Two types of radiation treatment methods are currently used for treatment of cervical cancer. External beam radiation therapy and internal radiation, also known as brachytherapy.
There are quite a few side effects that are associated with radiation treatment. However, the benefits far outweigh the side effects and women normally undergo this treatment to rule out the possibility of a recurrence. However, this does not mean that radiation therapy makes you entirely cancer proof. Discussed below are the side effects of radiation therapy.
Irritation On The Skin
Skin irritation is one of the most common side effects of radiation therapy. The skin becomes red, itchy and has a bruised appearance due to the burning caused by radiation therapy. There could also be scar formations on the skin which may not fade. Natural treatments like aloe vera gel can be applied on the skin surface for relief from scars and irritation.
Extreme fatigue is another side effect associated with radiation therapy. It could be due to the amount of radiation exposure and the weakening of the body’s immune system making the blood count very low. Adequate rest is prescribed during such cases.
Vomiting And Nausea
Vomiting and nausea along with severe loss of appetite and diarrhoea too can be caused due to radiation treatment. These symptoms may not be common and affect only a few. Natural treatments like ginger, peppermint and lemon can be used during this time to stay normal.
Cervical cancer treatment can lead to shrinking of the vagina and also narrowing of the vaginal canal. These two factors make the vagina susceptible to pain and bleeding during intercourse and susceptible to infections due to the low immune system. Cystitis is a common vaginal infection and inflammation caused due to radiation treatment. Symptoms include painful urination and a burning sensation inside the vagina. The vagina also becomes dry due to radiation exposure and treatment.
Though during radiation therapy, the surrounding organs are shielded from radiation, some organ damage and tissue damage are likely to occur during radiation treatment. The ovaries can be damaged due to radiation exposure and there are also chances of the woman becoming sterile due to the radiation treatment. These damages are irreversible and hence adequate measures must be undertaken before radiation treatment, like egg freezing if you want to conceive in future.
Weakening Of Bones
Another major side effect of radiation exposure is loss of bone density. This can lead to osteoarthritis and disorders of the bones at later stages. Radiation exposure can also make you susceptible to more cancer formations in the body.