CSN Login
Members Online: 5

You are here

Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy

gdpawel's picture
Posts: 525
Joined: May 2001

Radiation Therapy Side Effects

The side effects of Radiation Therapy can be classified as Acute, Subacute
and Delayed.

Acute reactions occur during the course of treatment and are temporary.
They are manifested as signs of increased inter-cranal pressure or
worsening of neurological deficits. They results from an increase in cerebral
edema(abnormal accumulation of fluid). The administration of
corticosteroids usually decreases or alleviates symptoms. Steroids are
generally administered during the course of therapy to prevent this
occurrence. Other acute reactions are nausea, vomiting, anorexia(loss of
apetite), fatigue, alopecia(loss of hair) and skin irritation.

Subacute reactions generally develop one to three months after completion
of therapy. These are temporary in nature. Symptoms include anorexia(loss
of apetite), sleepiness, lethargy(drowsiness) and an increase in neurological
deficits. These effects result from the temporary disruption of myelin
formation, which helps speed the relay of nerve signals. It takes
approximately six weeks for myelin to repair.

Delayed reactions usally occur 6-24 months after completion of therapy.
These effects are irreversible and often progressive. They result from direct
injury to brain tissue and blood vessels. These reactions are due to changes
in the white matter and death of brain tissue caused by radiation-damaged
blood vessels. Symptoms vary from mild to severe decreased intellect,
memory impairment, confusion, personality changes and alteration of the
normal function of the area irradiated. Leukoencephalopathy(degeneration
of the white matter) occurs at the tumor site and surrounding irradiated brain.
The clinical manifestations range from mild cognitive neurological
impairment to dementia to death. Those at increased risk for long-term
radiation effects are children less than 2 and adults over 50 years of age.
Long-term effects can be initially managed to some degree with
corticosteroids and surgery to remove necrotic tissue. Other long-term
reactions include loss of vision, development of secondary
malignancies(oncogenesis) and pituitary-hypothalamic dysfunction(changes
in normal hormone levels)leading to problems with your thyroid, sugar
metabolism, fertility or ability to process water.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Chemotherapy affects both normal and tumor cells. The effect on normal cells is the cause of side effects from chemotherapy. Some chemotherapy drugs do permeate(pass through) the blood brain barrier(the system that protects the brain from foreign substances like disease by blocking their passage from the blood). The group of drugs called nitrosoureas like Cisplatin, Cisplatinum or Carboplatin are such drugs and natural substances such as Taxol, also cross the barrier. Necrotizing Leukoencephalopathy is the form of diffuse white matter injury that follows chemotherapy, as well as a suppressed immune system.The body's immune system attacks and eliminates not only bacteria and other foreign substances but also cancer cells. Cancer cells are not foreign to the body but their biological function has been altered in that it doesn't respond to the body's normal mechanisms for controlling cell growth and reproduction. The abnormal cells can continue to grow, resulting in cancer. Much of the body's protection against cancer is carried out directly by cells of the immune system rather than by antibodies circulating in the bloodstream. Cancer is 100 times more likely to occur in people who take drugs that suppress the immune system than in people with normal immune systems.

Posts: 1
Joined: May 2001

I am looking for information and possibly other people who have been overexposed by radiation therapy. I live in the Seattle area and had radiation therapy in 1995. Since then I have had progressive symptoms consistent with late toxicity from radiation.

I would appreciate any info you could give me or be able to point me in the right direction.



gdpawel's picture
Posts: 525
Joined: May 2001


There is so much more, but it can overwhelm you.

Posts: 2
Joined: Jul 2001

I read your post and was wondering what kind of drugs suppress the immune system. Also, I will be newly diagnosed, should I seek a second opinion before undertaking Chemotherapy? The DR. has mentioned Lymphoma. I go for a Bone Marrow Biopsy tomorrow. He says something is wrong with my T-Cells. I don't understand any of this. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You

gdpawel's picture
Posts: 525
Joined: May 2001

An oncologist friend of mine had given me very good advice, "Obtaining informed consent is one of the most important responsibilities of
any physician who uses any therapy that may potentially injure a patient.
In order to "inform" the patient the physician him/herself needs to
understand the anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, etc. of the treatment as
well as all of the potential risks and complications. Alternative
treatments should be described. In addition to understanding (which is
increasingly difficult, even for "specialists" in an age of burgeoning
medical knowledge and technology, the physician "informing" a patient needs
to spend enough time to make sure that the patient understands well enough
that the "consent" was truly "informed".

The problem with chemotherapy is that most cases it will not cure, it is just pallitive(to ease the pain or force of without curing). Other problems with chemotherapy are its side effects, from mild to insidious. It depends on the individual, each MAYBE different. It is your decision only, what to do. You should have ALL the information you possibly can receive to make that decision.

Of course, conditions are different from patient to patient. But you should know what it is your getting into, you may want conventional adjunct treatment or not. Information is the most important thing to have. There is a legal requirement that all doctors must give the patient the information about INFORMED consent. It is the patient's right to determine what the patient wants done to their own body. It is not enough for consent for a patient to merely sign their name or say "yes" to proceed. It needs to be an "informed" consent which means the patient needs to be told things like the nature of the treatment, ALL of the RISKS and alternatives, including their risks and non-treatment if that's an option.

Subscribe to Comments for "Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy"