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by admin - March 12th, 2009.
Filed under: Cancer. Tagged as: .

What Causes the Aftereffects of Radiation Therapy?

Many factors contribute to the aftereffects often seen in the first year or so after radiation. Radiation causes damage to rapidly dividing tissue in the parts of the body exposed to the radiation such as the lining of the digestive tract, the lining of the airway and the skin. This is seen as a dry mouth, a sore throat, trouble swallowing, a cough, and radiation “sunburn.”

Radiation causes generalized changes in the blood and immune system. This can be seen as anemia (low red blood cell count and low white blood cell counts.

Changes that are not due directly to the radiation but that commonly occur during and after radiation treatments include

• changes in nutritional status and eating habits

• changes in activity level (deconditioning)

• changes in sleep patterns

• an increase in emotional stress

• pain or discomfort

•energy demands of healing (every place that had cancer is now healing to return to its precancerous state or become a scar)

How Does Radiation Cause Late Effects (Changes Seen Months to Hears following Completion of Radiation)?

Late effects of radiation are due to changes in the radiated regions of your body that occur during and after your radiation. Some of the changes that can result in late effects include

•changes in the circulation that cause malfunctioning, scarring, or narrowing of an organ •loss of normal cells from an organ

•changes in normal cells that cause them to become cancerous, especially the bone marrow (leukemia) and soft tissue (sarcoma)

•changes in the thyroid that predispose to hypothyroidism (too low thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (too high thyroid)

•scarring of the lungs

•changes in the small vessels of the brain causing cognitive deficits (thinking problems)

•damage to the bone marrow that causes low blood counts

Except for the short-term changes in the blood counts and immune system, radiation causes changes and problems only in the areas that were radiated. You will not develop radiation-induced thyroid problems if your thyroid gland was not radiated.


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