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Radiation Therapy/What to Expect

Bunny822
Posts: 23
Joined: Nov 2017
Mikenh's picture
Mikenh
Posts: 777
Joined: Oct 2017

I had radiation therapy several months ago for rectal cancer. If you're getting it for colon cancer, then I'd guess that it's different. I don't even know if they do radiation for colon cancer.

I got called into the room with the big machine and they had a narrow table with towels and molds where you put your head and other parts and I was face down on the table. I pulled my shorts down a bit and they put a towel over my rear end. Then they left the room and the machine did its thing.

The first time was a calibration run and it took quite some time and was quite uncomfortable.

In general, they want you to drink quite a it of water (24 ounces I think) an hour before your appointment and this can make things quite uncomfortable when you're on the table. The reason for all of the water is to absorb excess radiation so it's important to hold it in.

I've heard that women sometimes have a harder time with radiation because they have more things that can get damaged by it.

It took about two weeks before I started feeling the hard parts - that is burned skin or holes. Maybe three weeks before I had some leakage problems. I used Depends (minimalist kind) for several weeks.

I was back to normal within two weeks after the last treatment.

The Chemo and Radiation shrunk my tumor by more than 90% so it was quite successful on that measure. It also dropped my CEA from 2.7 to 1.8. It is scary and it can be quite painful. There's the feeling that you are pooping out glass shards that's common.

It's good to keep in touch with the radiologist on what you're going through as they can offer things to help.

Bunny822
Posts: 23
Joined: Nov 2017

Thanks Mikenh for the feedback...I have rectal cancer too...was told radiation not done for colon cancer since intestine is mobile vs rectum in a confined space. Wow does not sound too pleasant but looks like you had good outcome. Have you had a surgery after radiation? My initial comment will not load due to server error...will keep trying

Mikenh's picture
Mikenh
Posts: 777
Joined: Oct 2017

I had surgery about 7 weeks after finishing chemo and radiation. I just started adjuvant chemo and it’s been a tough week but that’s mainly due to the weather. We are here to answer your questions before and during the process so that you can get through it.

Annabelle41415's picture
Annabelle41415
Posts: 6512
Joined: Feb 2009

They will set you up first before doing anything.  Mark you with some tatoos so their machines line up with what the Radiologist Onocologist wants radiated and might do a quick CT scan.  Mine did a couple of alignments before radiation began.  Once you begin radiation they might have you lifted onto a triangle platform which keeps the bladder away from the rectum - (drinking a lot of water before radiation is a must).  The radiation doesn't take long at all - maybe 10 minutes.  You won't feel anything at first but after about 2 weeks your anus skin will start burning and after about 4-5 weeks you might get some shedding of the inside colon - don't worry as that is normal but scary.  By the time you are done, you might have a hard time wiping when going the bathroom.  Important thing is to keep the anus area free from possible bleeding because the skin has been radiated.  My lotion of choice for the bottom was Calmoseptine which can only be obtained from behind the counter but your pharmacist should have it.  USE IT. It works wonders and will help when the acid of the bowels hit the radiated part.  You'll do fine though.  Keep coming on here.  Sorry it sounds so bad but that was my experience - hope you can sail through it.  Also be aware that the vagina area can close up leaving you very small and hurting if you plan to make love with your husband.  That's a whole different set of issues, but lets get you through this first.  I'm able to give some small advice with the other.

Hugs!  Kim

Bunny822
Posts: 23
Joined: Nov 2017

Thanks Kim...such good useful information...others have said radiation is a walk in the park compared to chemo...good to know to drink lots of water too...guess I will learn more as the time draws nearer or at my first visit...thanks again will be in touch!!!

Annabelle41415's picture
Annabelle41415
Posts: 6512
Joined: Feb 2009

If you get a chance read my "About Me" page. Mine was rectal cancer and if yours is it would be a good thing to see what I've dealt with through the past 9 years.  I'm Blessed though.  Wishing you the best and keep us informed.

Kim

Trubrit's picture
Trubrit
Posts: 5175
Joined: Jan 2013

First a few qualifiers.  I am female.  I have Stage IV Colorectal Cancer. I am four years five months out from my radiation treatment 

For me, radiation was like going to Hell and staying there for four months. 

I think I was one of the unlucky ones who suffered immensly. The pain was absolutely excrusiating. I once had a C-Section without anesthetic, which was horrendous. Radiation pain was equal to that, but, unlike the C-Section, which was over in an hour, this pain was day in and day out, week after week after week. 

I was NOT told to drink water. Must talk with my Rad Onc about that when I see him in February. 

I did not get tattooed but had stickers. 

I hear some folks lay on their backs when getting radiated. I laid on my stomach. There was a shallow depressoin where my belly dropped in to. I see from Kim's post, that was proabbly to rearrange my innards. It didn't work because my bladder is attached to my uterus with scar tissue from previous non-Cancer related surgeries. 

The application of radiation is painless. You just have to keep VERY still. 

The burn is painful. I used many different unctions to alliviate that, and found Vitamin E to be one of the better ones.

The skin around my genitals turned almost black, but that has gone away across the years.  

After treatment ended, I had open, weeping sores which were exacerbated by clothes. My PCP told me to use Witch Hazel, I purchased some organic, and those sore cleared up. 

Everything was so terribly tender around that area that I could not wear underwear or trousers for many, many months. And now, of course, I HATE wearing underwear, and don't if I can get away with it. 

The pain when having a bowel movement, or what I thought was going to be a bowel movement had me biting on a towel to keep from screaming (no, I am not exagerating). I am one strong old bird, but this brought me to my knees, literally, and I wept uncontrolably for half an hour sometimes. 

I told my Rad Onc, if I cry for 10 minutes, that's a pity party. If I cry for half an hour, I'm in serious pain.  I did ask him to stop treatment at around the 25 mark, but he strongly advised against it, so I continued, like a good, obedient patient. 

The skin around my genitals became paper thin, and rips at the slightest touch. 

I have the worst case of vaginal stenosis that my Gynecologist has ever seen.

I have rectal stenosis. 

Sex is totally out of the question, even touching the area is a no no.

What damage was done on the inside, from radiation, I do not no.

As I said above. I am five years and four months out from treatment and I still see my Radiation Oncologist on a regular basis. I believe this is because of the extent of my post rad probelms. 

Ah! Radiation!

I do believe that I am on the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to suffering. But, it is good to know, just in case you find yourself there. 

Well, I'm quite sure I have missed some terrible things, but right now, I can't think of them - or don't want to -

Sorry to have been so blunt, but there you go. Knowledge is power or preparation. 

Tru.  - please forgive any and all spelling mistakes -

 

 

Bunny822
Posts: 23
Joined: Nov 2017

Dear Tru...so sorry hear about your ordeal...I appreciate your honesty and candor...no sugar coating things around here...individual experiences vary so much I guess I will just have to wait and see...Tru you are strong and still with us and just celebrated your 59th Birthday! You are a "Tru Survivor!" Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year! Bunny 

darcher's picture
darcher
Posts: 257
Joined: Jun 2017

  I also had colrectal cancer and for me I didn't feel much of anything from radiation.  I honestly wondered if it was working at all beyond making me feel worn out.  I did end up with an unwanted tan line which should dissipate over time but it's not that noticable.  So, between Trubrit and me, you'll fall in there somewhere.

 

 Dave

Bunny822
Posts: 23
Joined: Nov 2017

Thanks darcher...glad radiation went well for you...fingers crossed for me...guess we will see...I am just trying to get prepared and appreciate all that have shared their experiences with me...I hope to follow in your footsteps...trying to stay positive...thanks again 

Tunadog's picture
Tunadog
Posts: 235
Joined: Mar 2017

My Radiation was not that severe. I was tattooed and got my Radiation shot laying on my back legs in a form.

I didn't have much pain. I would take an Ibuprofen and Medical Marijuana cookie afterwards. 

I got Radiation burns between my tailbone and anus. It is still very thin and breaks from time to time.

The patient in front of me had Prostrate Cancer and he complained about the heat from the Radiation.

Again, sorry to hear of your ordeal. 

Mikenh's picture
Mikenh
Posts: 777
Joined: Oct 2017

One other note: every once in a while, my appointment would be delayed by 15 minutes to an hour. The reason for this was usually a patient that had difficulty. The challenge for me (and the others in the waiting room) was holding in all of that water for an extended period of time. The recommendation was to go to the toilet and let out a little to make it more manageable. Water absorbs a lot of radiation so it's important in your bladder to protect other parts.

Trubrit's picture
Trubrit
Posts: 5175
Joined: Jan 2013

my Rad Onc, but I bet I wasn't asked to drink water because my bladder is attached to my uterus, and there is no holding on to water for any amount of time. 

This still interests me though.  I do wish I had done at least some research into raditaion before I got it. I had plenty of months doing chemo beforehand, that I could have. Oh well, a mute point now. 

So, there you go. Do your homework. That is my advice. 

Tru

Mikenh's picture
Mikenh
Posts: 777
Joined: Oct 2017

I didn't actually do any research. I just mentioned the water issue to my son and he told me why they did it. It can be handy to have a science guy around the house that can dumb things down so that I can understand them.

Chickspeed
Posts: 7
Joined: Jun 2017

This is a cut and paste from my personal journal it may not apply to you but here is how it worked for me

 

The chemoradiation was 25 treatments spanning 5 days a week for 5 weeks plus 1650mg of capecitabine (xeloda)(pills) 2 times a day on the days of radiation. The chemoradiation is used to shrink the growth and often results in downstaging for pathology after surgery.

 

Feb 22nd 2017

Traveled to the Hospital to get ct scan of pelvic area to put 3 tiny tattoo marks in my waist area, one on my left hip, one on my right hip and one just above my groin.

 

March 6th 2017

I was booked to start chemoradiation for 5 consecutive weeks ending on April 7th. I had no idea what to expect but I have an intense curiosity and urge to understand whats going on around me. So I watched and followed and asked questions. Since most of what Dr Google could supply for information was and still is midevil in comparison (IMHO). And for a short foot note both oncologists suggested I stay away from google the information I will find is dated and not accurate.

 

So I completed 5 weeks of radiation and chemo coming away with a profound respect for the team charged with my care during treatment. Each treatment session took about 12 mins 10 mins to get you lined up with your tatoo markings by lazer and confirm positioning via mini CT scan then 2 mins to do the treatment. I would like to note that if my bladder was under or over full I had to deal with that before treatment would begin because they require your bladder to be as much out of the way as possible. The machine they used for treatment was a varian truebeam radiotherapy system. The first step is to get you on the machine and lined up to laser positions that match your tiny tatoos. Then out from the left and right side of the machine come 2 arms that rotate around you first clockwise then counter clockwise. Then after a pause of about 60 seconds you feel the table you are lying on move ever so slightly to line you up with the markings closely as possible. Then the 2 arms move out of he way and the round part of the machine which looks like an oversized camera lens off a cell phone (about 25 inches across) starts to make a strange buzzing noise, not real loud but you can hear it. The radiation machine makes 2 360 degree trips around your body one clockwise and one counter clockwise (about 1 mins each way) then your treatment is done for the day. You can see pics of the machine if you do a google search for varian truebeam radiotherapy machine.

 

 

|I had nearly no side effects to radiation or chemotherapy. Towards the last 10 treatments I had some diarrhea (imodium cleared it up) and some difficulty urinating and some burning when I did. This cleared up within 10 days of completion of treatment. I was expelling mucus in my stool after about 14 treatments but was told that was normal No other side effects at all. I was amazed considering what Dr Google spelled out for me.

 

hope this helps and good luck

Bunny822
Posts: 23
Joined: Nov 2017

Thank you so much Chickspeed for all the detailed and helpful information. Glad that you were able to push through your treatment without any major issues...so interesting how experiences can vary so greatly between folks...I have been fortunate to be able to continue to work while on chemotherapy...just finished Round #6 out of 8...hope that radiation will go well too...yes knowledge is power and certainly will help to be prepared intellectually, physically, and emotionally...thanks again!

 

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