Radiation - What to expect?

MattButts Member Posts: 37
I was diagnosed with anal cancer last March, and just had my fourth surgery for it. The doc is talking about radiation now. I'd like to find out more about what to expect: will it debilitate me? Will I lose my hair? Etc.

This has probably been discussed on here before; if anyone can suggest a thread on here for me to read, that would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.


  • z
    z Member Posts: 1,411 Member
    Hello, I lost my hair, but it grew back. It will feel like a sunburn, but it will probably get rid of any loose cancer cells running around, so you won't have another recurrance. When you start, your radiologist will go over all the side effects and meds you may use to treat them. I wish you well. Lori
  • mxperry220
    mxperry220 Member Posts: 493 Member
    I did not loose any hair except on my butt. I had 30 doses of radiation over 6 weeks. I mainly slept most of this time. The radiation made me extremely tired with no energy.
  • mp327
    mp327 Member Posts: 4,440 Member
    Hi Matt--

    I am sorry you may be undergoing radiation, but your doctor is probably considering it to zap any rogue cancer cells in your pelvic area.

    I'm not sure we have a thread dedicated to radiation on this site, so I'll just give you a few tidbits of info for now. Most of us had radiation for 5-6 weeks. Side effects can vary from person to person, most having to do with skin irritation and/or burning. There are many things that can help ease the discomfort and all of us here will be most happy to suggest things to you, should you experience this. It really comes down to trial and error. What works for some doesn't for others. I hope you are going to have a great radiation oncologist who will not hesitate to suggest and prescribe things that will help ease the side effects. Fatigue can be an issue, as well as diarrhea and painful urination. I'm pretty sure we've previously discussed here what each of us was told regarding having a full bladder prior to treatment. Some were told not to, others were told it was important to be full to protect the bladder from the radiation. That is one question you will definitely want to ask your rad onc.

    The time spent on the machine will not be long each session, perhaps 20 minutes or so. Once they get you correctly positioned, the machine rotates around the table you're on and stops at the angles determined in your treatment plan to deliver the radiation. You should ask your rad onc what your radiation dosage will be. Mine was 1.8 gys daily for 30 days, totalling 54 gys. The maximum dosage is 59 gys. Prior to radiation, your skin must be completely free of any creams, jels or other substances to prevent excess burning.

    As for whether or not the treatment will be debilitating, I would think not. You will be tired, but not so much that you can not function. You did not mention getting any chemo with the radiation. If chemo is added into the mix, then that changes things a bit. Please let us know if that is to be part of your treatment. If you receive radiation alone, you will probably only lose hair in the treatment area. However, chemo can cause hair loss everywhere, as it is a systemic treatment.

    If you have specific questions, please ask! Keep us posted on the plan and when you will start treatment if it's decided you should get it. I know it is very daunting to think about, but so many of us have survived it and you can too.
  • mp327
    mp327 Member Posts: 4,440 Member
    Matt, I just wanted to add that all of us are here for you. Do not hesitate to come here to vent, cry or seek advice. We have your back!