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Colon Cancer

What If I Need Radiation Therapy?

Last modified: 
20/03/2012 - 18:31

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Radiation therapy is a treatment option for colon cancer. This form of therapy involves the use of x-rays or other high-energy rays to shrink tumors by destroying cancer cells.

  • Because colon cancer sometimes recurs at its original site, radiation therapy may used to decrease the chances of cancer recurrence. Radiation treatments may be used prior to colon cancer surgery to decrease the size of the tumor, or may begin shortly after the surgery. Radiation therapy is used for colon cancers that have spread beyond the wall of the rectum. This can be determined prior to surgery by testing with endorectal ultrasound and computed tomography.

Radiation therapy may be delivered in two ways:

  • By a special machine in the hospital or doctor's office. X-rays coming from this equipment are aimed and targeted to a specific portion of the colon.
  • By "planting seeds" of radiation directly into the body through thin plastic tubes.

Need To Know:

Radiation therapy destroys cancer cells but can also damage normal cells.

  • Skin around the treated area may be red and sore.
  • Some people feel tired during the course of radiation therapy.
  • Digestive distress and discomfort may also occur.

In most people, the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy begin to disappear as soon as treatment is finished.

How-To Information:

While undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment:

  • Try to eat a variety of foods, with special attention to protein. This helps the body repair the tissues damaged during treatment.
  • If diarrhea is a problem, try avoiding dairy products, which may make it worse.
  • An appetite for large meals may be gone. Try several smaller meals each day.
  • When away from home, carry food and water.
  • Indulge with favorite foods. Taste buds may be temporarily affected by the treatment and foods you once liked may no longer be appealing.
  • Avoid foods high in fat. These foods can cause a sense of "fullness," without providing enough nutrients.

For more detailed information about radiation, go to Radiation Therapy.

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Colon Cancer

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.