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8 Myths about Radiotherapy!

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Cancer Treatment

8 Myths about Radiotherapy!

Dr. Ranga Rao
Director - Medical Oncology
Medical Oncology, Cancer Care / Oncology
  • Myth 1- Radiation Therapy (RT) is painful.

Fact 1- It is actually a painless treatment, so a person who is undergoing radiation therapy does not feel pain, warmth or heat when the treatment is given. Though one may experience skin irritation, redness, and throat/mouth ulcer as a consequence of RT (which might lead to pain).

  • Myth 2- RT will make me radioactive and I can pass on this radiation to people/my family members near me. I should stay away from small kids at home.

Fact 2- Person receiving external RT or brachytherapy (Internal Radiation) does not become radioactive any time during treatment. Radiation received gets absorbed in your body tissues and there is no lingering radiation later on. It’s absolutely safe to stay with family and friends while you are on RT.

  • Myth 3- RT causes hair loss from head/scalp.

Fact 3- Patients receiving RT on their head lose their scalp hair (that too partially). If you are getting radiation on any other body part, you will not lose your scalp hair. Radiation causes only hair loss in local area. Patient receiving radiation to breast might lose some hair in arm pit or male patients with RT might lose facial/beard/moustache hair.

  • Myth 4- RT causes nausea/vomiting.

Fact 4- RT per se does not cause nausea / vomiting except when it’s being given along with chemotherapy or directed to an abdominal area.  To give an example breast RT might lead to some mild nausea but does not lead to vomiting.

  • Myth 5- After RT a person feels warm and should take lot of cold food items.

Fact 5- RT does not lead to a feeling of heat or warmth. One can continue to take cold food / liquids normally.

  • Myth 6- There is no need /advantage of RT after complete removal of tumour.

Fact 6- Even after complete surgical removal of tumour, there are some cancer cells remaining in the operated area which sometimes can lead to disease recurrence. RT is usually given to decrease or minimize the chances of local disease re-occurrence. Oncologists will usually weigh the risk of local re occurrence and likely benefit of local radiation and accordingly advise you.

  • Myth 7- Radiation is supposed to prevent disease reoccurrence, but I think it can cause cancer.

Fact 7- Radiation in most of the cancers significantly improves disease control, decreases risk of local recurrence and increases curability. Radiation can lead to so called ‘radiation induced cancers’ but the risk is one in 1000 to 10,000. So the benefit of radiation therapy far outweighs the risk.

  • Myth 8- Radiation leads to skin burns

Fact 8- RT does not cause skin burning, but it does lead to redness, darkening, and peeling of skin in the local area being treated. The magnitude of these side effects varies from person to person and also depends on area being treated. These effects are usually temporary and gradually improve after RT completion.