• Radiation Therapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

    Radiation therapy may be used to treat your cancer. Here is what's involved:

    External Beam Radiation Therapy

    In external beam radiation therapy, radiation is produced by a machine called a linear accelerator. Short bursts of x-rays are fired from the machine at your cancer. The x-rays come out in a square-shaped manner, and the radiation oncologist designs special blocks to shape the radiation beam so that it treats the cancer and as little normal tissue as possible. Before treatment actually begins, your doctor will design specific treatment fields and prepare either computer programs or blocks to shape the treatment beam to fit your particular situation.
    Radiation of a Tumor
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    Like chemotherapy , the side effects from radiation result from injury to the normal tissues. There are many new ways that the radiation oncologist can customize your treatment to try to kill as much cancer while sparing as much normal tissue as possible. The radiation oncologist will determine how many treatments you will receive; sometimes they will be once a day and sometimes twice per day. Each treatment generally only takes a few minutes, and the total treatment time can range from 5-8 weeks depending on the total dose required.
    Radiation therapy can be given to treat cancer at its initial site or once it has spread. In some cases, once cancer has spread, radiation is no longer curative. However, the treatments can help resolve problems that the cancer may be causing, including pain and weakness.
    Many people believe that once you have received a certain dose of radiation you can no longer get any more treatment. It is true that each tissue in the body can only safely tolerate a certain dose of radiation. However, the therapy is very focused. It is possible that you can get additional treatments to an already treated area or certainly to an area not yet treated. Ask your radiation oncologist about what dose you can safely receive.
    Possible side effects include:
    • Fatigue
    • Skin changes (redness, irritation)
    • Feelings of anger, anxiety , depression , frustration
    • Reduced blood cell count (white cells in particular, but could also affect red cells or platelets)
    • Hair loss
    • Changes in appetite

    When to Contact Your Doctor

    Call your doctor if you:
    • Develop side effects from the treatment
    • Develop new or unusual symptoms
    • Notice that your skin is red, blistered, or swollen

    References

    Hodgkin disease. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp . Accessed April 24, 2009.

    Hodgkin lymphoma. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/hodgkin . Accessed April 24, 2009.

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