Chemotherapy and Radiation

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy both carry a risk for long-term problems.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy both carry a risk for long-term problems. Most patients suffer a great deal during the radical stages of treatment. After the worst seems to be done and hair starts to grow back, long-term effects still can creep in. These can occur virtually any time in the patient’s life following treatment, from weeks to months to years.

The thyroid is a gland that delivers the stimulating hormone, which regulates nearly all of the active organs in the body. This gland may become damaged during chemotherapy and cause the fatigue. Feeling fatigued means you feel tired most of the time, making it difficult to participate in normal daily activities or accomplish simple tasks. While this is more common shortly after chemotherapy and radiation treatment, it can continue or return much later.

Menopausal symptoms include hot and cold sweats, mood swings, hot flashes and dizziness. During chemotherapy, the thyroid gland may be affected as well as the uterus and female reproductive organs. This may cause early or prolonged menopausal symptoms.

Neuropathy is a painful sensation in the feet. It usually is seen in diabetics where nerve damage occurs because of poor circulation incurred in diabetes. Neuropathy also can be caused by the intense chemical agents of chemotherapy. These chemicals can kill nerve cells while killing the infected cancerous ones. Neuropathy can occur long after treatment, but if a decade has passed between treatment and the onset of neuropathy, it may be a sign of something else such as diabetes.

Heart failure may occur because of the overload of the chemicals during treatment. The heart moves at a faster rate reacting to the chemotherapy agents. Chemotherapy agents are stimulating and trigger the heart to work harder. Fluid overload is a natural response. The harsh chemicals involved are toxic to the vital organs as well. The heart failure may occur months or years after treatment and it may be brought on by weakening of the heart during treatment.

Kidney failure is a shut down of the normal function of the kidneys which breakdown toxins in the body. Although the liver is a vital component in the breakdown of toxins, it is the kidney that finally rids the body of harmful toxins. The kidneys function harder during the course of chemotherapy and thus get tired. They may be unable to withstand long periods of treatment. Ultimately, damage occurs and the kidneys slow down the process of detoxification. Fluid build up in the feet and ankles are common symptoms of kidney failure. While this can occur months after treatment, if a lot of time has passed, it may be due to some other medical problem. Skin sensitivity is common during courses of radiation as the good skin also is affected. The skin becomes thinner and less resilient surround the area that has been radiated during the course of therapy. Skin may become sensitive to cold and warmth. It tends to become pinkish when exposed to different extremes of temperature. This may occur for months after treatment.

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