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Radiation treatment, what to expect?

Branstetter's picture
Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2011

Hello, my name is John. This is the first time that I've posted anything on this site but I figured that it might be a good place to seek some input. I imagine that are more than a few here with similar experience. 

I was was originally diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer in May 2010. Was treated with surgery at Stanford cancer center. Total thyroidectomy, radical left neck dissection and all of the fun things that come along with it...

After the surgery I lost my insurance and have had quite the roller coaster ride of life events sinice then. 

My latest adventure with this disease was a couple lymph nodes being removed last month, both positive for MTC.

It has been recommended to me by the doctors to have a six week medium radiation treatment as soon as possible. So now I'm looking for input from people that have experienced the same type of thing. What kind of realistic long term effects can I look forward to dealing with. I know what the doctor said that I can expect, but he didn't look like he had ever been on the receiving end of a treatment. 

I'll probably end up losing my current job and the insurance that goes with it by the end of this time around. Can't see them keeping me around for very long after being out for several weeks but that seems to be how it goes. 


Thank in advance for all input, John

alapah's picture
Posts: 287
Joined: Oct 2009

Hi John,

I had six weeks of EBR to the neck and upper central chest (trachea) in 2009. It is a bit tough but you can make it through. Here is a copy of advice i posted to a CSN thread back in 2010:

"I had external beam radiation treatments on my neck due to thyroid cancer that had stuck to my trachea- 6 weeks of treatments. This was in addition to Radioactive Iodine treatment. It's not common for thyroid cancer patients to need EBR, just Radioactive Iodine.

I did not need a feeding tube though eating and drinking were rough after about the third week in. No matter how they plan your treatments, your esophagus gets in the line of fire so it gets irritated. I was staying at an American Cancer Society Lodge and got a lot of good advice from folks receiving radiation who were further along than me. They told me to eat whatever i wanted in the first few weeks because they knew it would be harder later. Don't even think about calories. Just eat. Eventually my throat did get sore.

At first I was able to use Cepacol to numb things up to eat but eventually i was prescribed a liquid codeine solution. The problem with pain killers is they slow you digestive tract and you need to stay hydrated - which is hard when you find it painful to swallow. I could not drink water - it really hurt. But milk was okay so that's mostly how i got liquids. They want you to eat as much protein as possible for healing. By the end i was only eating things like whipped cream and ice cream but i'm here to tell you it did get better with time. I was prepared to get a feeding tube if necessary. the idea kind of freaked me out too but i met others that had to have them and they were coping well. it really helped them. you may not need it, or you may. try not to worry too much about that aspect and approach it a day or week at a time if you can. be thinking of you."

It took two or three weeks following the last treatment til things really began to improve - but they did!

feel free to ask more about it. I did keep a diary but i am not home at the moment.

very best to you!


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