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What to expect from radiotherapy


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I have just had a call from the Oncologist to say that I will start radiotherapy next week. He seemed happy with the recent scans and x-rays after just 2 rounds of chemo, but I dont know why he is starting it so soon. He had said at the beginning of treatment that I would only have radiotherapy after about 3 or four rounds of chemo, and only if the tumor had shrunk.

Can anyone tell me what to expect from the radiotherapy regarding side effects, and if it will improve the SOB, congestion and cough, which are a problem at the moment.

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It is a good thing that he wants to start now, it means that the chemo shrunk the tumor plenty enough for them to feel comfortable starting radiation. (If that was the reason for why they waited to start it, whic is what happened with my sister.) I can say that I noticed a quick change in her coughing, which was how I knew things were working. She never really had SOB but her coughing was constant and nothing I recommended seemed to work. One day, it was just gone. And that was early in the process. My sister tolerated the radiation very well, and it was at about the max dose they could deliver over a 37 day period. She had some slight burning on the skin, but not much and we kept it well moisturized. Her esophagus had some issues, that tends to be the biggest problem especially if they are irradiating the mediastinal nodes, which lie right over the esophagus. Some foods she had to forgo and some she told me she had to swallow differently. But she still ate, telling me only one day out of all of it did she not feel like eating and then not eat. Other days, she had to make herself, but she knew it was vital to keep up the nutrition. Everyone is different of course, but all and all, she did well and with little residual effects. Subsequent scans have not shown any damage to healthy lung tissue. She too has COPD, if that helps at all.

Good luck with the radiation!

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Hi there. I have heard many positive stories of radiation being successful in reducing symptoms. I had 30 doses of radiation and did not suffer throughout the treatment. Lucky!! However, after treatment, and still now, my lung feels like it has been blasted. But radiation can really be a big ticket item in kicking butt, so my advice is to stick with it as long as you can. Best wishes

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Guest hearrean

I had 38 treatments of IMRT & just finished that on 3/12. Starting about week 3, I began having issues with my esophagus. That area was within the field of radiation, so there was no avoiding it. For a time I really thought I'd have to have a feeding tube, because it was all I could do to swallow. But I managed to make it through that ordeal. The other issue was fatigue which began about week 5. I would be ok during the mornings, but fatigue would set in about mid-day & I'd simply have to crash. I still have some of that now.

If your field of radiation does not involve the mediastinum as mine did, you will probably be ok with the esophagus problem.

One thing I did discover is that if you are having chemo as well as the radiation, the side affects tend to be more exagerated as both seem to affect the other. I know this first-hand because during my radiation (which was daily), I was given a one week chemo break & those side affects I mentioned above weren't nearly as bad.

One last thing I'd like to add is that when I met with my MD Anderson Onc just last week, he did warn me that another side affect I needed to be aware of was radiation pneumonitis. This can start from between 1 month to several months after completing radiation. The symtoms are similar to pneumonia, but if untreated, can cause lung scarring, etc. The odds of getting this seem fairly low, but it's good to be aware of it just in case.

I do wish you good luck & I can tell you that enduring those side affects was well worth it because of the benefit of the radiation.


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