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Lung Cancer Radiation Side Effects

Lung Cancer Radiation Side Effects

Radiation therapy is one of the treatment options that is recommended for lung cancer. Though this therapy is quite effective, it could be accompanied by side effects that can range from mild to severe. This article would give you some information on the short-term and long-term side effects.
Deepa Kartha
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
Lung cancer is a serious, life-threatening disease that can affect both men and women. However, with the advancement of technology, there are many treatment measures that can cure it completely, if detected in the early stages. The therapy is either administered alone or along with other treatment measures like surgery, chemotherapy, etc.
However, when a person who is diagnosed with lung cancer undergoes therapy, there are high chances for him to experience certain side effects. The cause of these side effects is that, the process of destroying cancer cells also damages the normal cells that are required for the proper functioning of the body. Though with advanced technology, side effects have decreased a lot, there are still some disadvantages associated with it.
The primary function of this therapy is to destroy the cancerous cells present in the lungs. Sometimes, it is the only treatment suggested for lung cancer. Radiation therapy is given to patients to reduce the size of tumor. Its effects may vary individually. People may have mild to severe symptoms, however, there have been cases where people did not have any adverse effects.
Short-term Side Effects
  • Fatigue is one of the most common side effects. One is likely to feel extremely tired while undergoing this therapy. This is usually experienced 4-6 weeks after the treatment begins. Though, most people are able to go through their routine activities, they may feel the need to rest in between work.
  • Skin irritation is another problem which occurs in that area which was exposed to radiation. People may experience dry skin and skin peeling near the chest area. Skin irritation may subside a few weeks after the treatment has stopped, but one should avoid using lotions and creams that contain chemicals. Applying aloe vera gel or moisturizing lotion, would help in soothing the irritation.
  • Hair loss is also observed around the chest area.
  • Cough or shortness of breath are other symptoms that can be seen. The cause for this is said to be decrease in the level of surfactant in the lungs which actually aids the lungs to expand.
Long-term Side Effects
Apart from these, the therapy can cause some serious after-effects.
  • Sometimes, there are high chances for the heart to get affected, leading to cardiac toxicity. Radiation can also give rise to inflammation of the lungs, thus damaging the spinal cord.
  • Another problem would be 'pneumonitis'. This may occur within 1 to 6 months after the therapy has been stopped. Some of the symptoms of pneumonitis include cough, fever, and breathing difficulty.
  • Another dangerous side effect is secondary cancer. Though this is very rare, there have been cases where treatment has led to leukemia, breast cancer, etc., 5 to 10 years after the completion of the treatment.
Usually, a person would be given medicines as a precaution to avoid these situations, so that they wouldn't normally occur. However, if found, a health specialist should be consulted to prevent the occurrence of further complications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.