Side Effects of Radiation Therapy
- Tiredness or fatigue. Most people begin to feel tired after the second or third week of therapy. Fatigue gradually disappears after treatment is complete.
- Skin reaction such as a rash or redness, permanent pigmentation and scarring in the treated area
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting. Nausea and/or vomiting usually occur one or two hours after undergoing a treatment. There are other causes of nausea and vomiting that should be explored if symptoms persist.
- Diarrhea. Patients who undergo radiation therapy to the lower abdomen may experience treatment-related or disease-related diarrhea
- Hair loss or alopecia. Hair will usually begin to grow back once treatment is stopped. Receiving chemotherapy at the same time as radiation therapy can affect how hair grows back. Re-growth also depends on how much and the type of radiation therapy you received.
- Decreased blood counts. Radiation therapy can reduce the amounts of white blood cells in your blood, which fight infection, and platelets, which help blood to clot.
- Oral cavity problems such as mouth or throat pain, lack of saliva, increased cavities, sores near or around dentures and difficulty eating
Nursing Responsibilities throughout Radiation Therapy
- Answer the questions and concerns of the patient and family to help allay fears about the therapy and the side effects.
- Assess the patient’s skin, nutritional status, and general feeling of well-being.
- The nurse should also assess the oral mucosa and skin periodically throughout the treatment to note for changes.
- To protect the patient’s skin from irritation, the patient is advised to avoid using ointments, lotions or powder on the area.
- Assist the patient with ADLs and personal hygiene.
- Precautions to protect the personnel from the effects of radiation should be implemented.
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