How Do You Manage the Common Side Effects of Mesothelioma Radiotherapy?

The commonest forms of mesothelioma cancer are pleural(chest) mesothelioma and abdominal mesothelioma.They are usually treated by a combination of surgery ,chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These are some of commonly encountered side effects of radiotherapy treatment:

Side effects of chest radiotherapy

Radiation treatment to the chest in the treatment of pleural mesothelioma may cause swallowing problems, cough, or shortness of breath. You should inform your doctor if you notice any of these side effects.

Other side effects may include breast soreness and swelling from fluid build-up in the treated area. These side effects most likely will go away a month or 2 after you finish radiation therapy. If fluid build-up continues to be a problem (a condition called lymphedema), ask your doctor what steps you can take.

Skin in the treated area may turn red or get darker. This will most likely fade 1 or 2 months after you finish the radiotherapy treatment.
When radiation treatments include the chest area, the lungs can be affected. One early change is a decrease in the levels of surfactant, the substance that helps keep the air passages open. This keeps the lungs from fully expanding, and may cause shortness of breath or cough. These symptoms are sometimes treated with steroids.

A possible late effect of radiation to the lungs is fibrosis (stiffening or scarring). When this happens, the lungs can no longer fully inflate and take in air. If a large area of the lungs is treated with radiation, these changes can cause shortness of breath and less tolerance for physical activity.

Side effects of abdominal radiotherapy.

If you are having radiation treatment to the stomach or some part of the abdomen (belly) for the treatment of abdominal mesothelioma, you may experience symptoms of vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea. Your doctor can give you medicines to help relieve these symptoms. You might also consider the use of home remedies, but make sure you discuss with your health team about these home remedies before taking them.

Managing nausea

You could feel nauseated a few hours right after completion of radiation therapy. If you are experiencing this symptom it is better that you do not take any meal several hours before you commence treatment. You may be able to handle the treatment better on an empty stomach. After treatment, you may want to wait 1 to 2 hours before eating. If the problem persists, ask your doctor about medicines to prevent and treat nausea. Be sure to take the medicine as prescribed.

If you notice nausea before your treatment, eat a bland snack, such as toast or crackers, and try to relax as much as possible. Here are some tips to help an upset stomach:

*Stick to any special diet your doctor or dietitian gives you.

*Eat small meals.

*Eat often and try to eat and drink slowly.

*Avoid fatty and fried foods.

*Drink cool liquids between meals.

*Avoid meals that have a strong aroma, and eat meals that are served cool or at room temperature.

*For a severe upset stomach, try a clear liquid diet (broth and juices) or bland foods that are easy to digest, such as dry toast and gelatin.

*Learn deep breathing and relaxation techniques, and try them when you feel nauseated.

How to manage diarrhea

Diarrhea usually starts a few weeks after starting radiation therapy. Your doctor may prescribe medicine or give you special instructions to help with the problem. Your doctor may also recommend that you modify your diet in the following ways:

*Try a clear liquid diet (water, weak tea, apple juice, peach nectar, clear broth, popsicles, and plain gelatin) as soon as diarrhea starts or when you feel it is going to start.

*Avoid foods that are high in fiber or can cause gas or cramps, such as raw fruits and vegetables, coffee, beans, cabbage, whole grain breads and cereals, sweets, and spicy foods.

*Avoid taking large meals, it is better you take light frequent meals instead.

*If taking of milk and milk products irritate your bowels, the avoid taking them.

*Once the diarrhea starts resolving, eat small amounts of low-fiber foods such as rice, bananas, applesauce, yogurt, mashed potatoes, low-fat cottage cheese, and dry toast.

*Take food that are rich in potassium (bananas, potatoes, apricots, peaches), this mineral is lost from the body through diarrhea.

Diet planning is an important part of radiation treatment of the stomach and abdomen. Most of these symptoms will abate once treatment is over. In the meantime, try to pack the highest possible food value into even small meals so you get enough calories, vitamins, and minerals.

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