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After radiation therapy
Recovery after radiation therapy varies and depends on:
- the type of cancer
- how far the cancer had progressed at the time of diagnosis
- the dose of radiation
- the type of radiation therapy given (external or internal)
- response to treatment
- the person’s overall health
The healthcare team will give people receiving radiation therapy instructions about any limitations or special safety measures that they need to take during physical or sexual activity and when returning to work. Most people are encouraged to do as much activity or exercise as they feel up to. Some people find they need extra rest for a while after treatment.
External beam radiation therapy
People receiving external beam radiation are not radioactive after treatment, so they do not need to avoid contact with others. Physical contact or sexual activity is safe after external beam radiation therapy. Some people may have to take extra care of their skin for a while after treatment.
Once a radioactive implant is removed, there is no radioactivity left in the body. People who receive permanent radiation implants may have to take certain safety precautions for some time after they go home.
The area treated with an implant may be somewhat painful or sensitive for a while after it is placed.
Systemic radiation therapy
People who have systemic radiation therapy may have to take certain safety precautions for some time after they go home.
After radiation therapy is completed, follow-up appointments are usually scheduled to:
- see how the cancer is responding to radiation therapy
- Radiation therapy continues to work over several months after it is given, so changes in the size of the tumour may not be as obvious during treatment as it is after treatment.
- discuss ways of lessening and treating side effects, if they occur
- find out how the person is coping
- discuss further treatment options, if needed
The frequency of follow-up is tailored for the individual and varies with the type of cancer, the type of radiation therapy given and whether additional treatment is planned. More frequent visits may be done at first, but follow-up visits are usually less frequent over time.
Follow-up tests will depend on the type of cancer being treated. Tests may include:
- a physical examination
- laboratory tests
- tumour marker tests
- imaging tests
Establishing a national caregivers strategy
The Canadian Cancer Society is actively lobbying the federal government to establish a national caregivers strategy to ensure there is more financial support for this important group of people.