TREATMENT OPTIONS: Radiotherapy…

It is also by no means unusual or uncommon at such times as these to feel that others are taking more and more control of one’s day-to-day life. Consequently, it can appear to be the case that one’s own involvement and participation is ever being eroded and reduced to that of a purely passive role. Should this happen, it is worth calling to mind what deep within, each one of us knows to be an essential truth: namely that whatever changes may be taking place in our bodies, we are – in our spirits so to speak – no less individual and unique than we were before illness struck. It has been and thus, still is this deep-set inner self that the enduring loves and interest of others is really ‘plugged into’. Thankfully for all of us, it refuses to be in any way compromised by variations in health status, in whatever direction. Doubtless we may be – often are – affected by changing circumstances. However, we can and will remain the person we always ever were and are to those around us. It is also worth remembering that we have an “inner self”, which similarly will not be compromised by the chances and changes in health status. Indeed, many believe that herein lies an energy and purpose, albeit complexly interwoven and which we barely begin to understand.

Where a large area of the body is being subjected to radiotherapeutic treatment – especially including the abdomen – bouts of nausea and even actual vomiting may occur.  As we shall also see, similar symptoms, e.g. nausea and vomiting, can arise in association with other anti-cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.  Indeed, it is my intention to write to you in greater detail shortly on the subject of nausea and vomiting as a noxious side-effect of chemotherapy. I also intend to include a brief review of simple but effective ways of bringing its more psychogenic aspects under control.

The term “psychogenic”· truly is a key term in relation to the above. Adequately understood and applied, it can help immeasurably in self-management of what is known as “psychogenic nausea and vomiting”. In fact, in my submission, it is so important to outline and consider this in some detail that I propose to write a separate blog on the topic in due course.

Sometimes there are longer-term losses as the result of radiotherapy, which will vary in impact from individual to individual.  Treatment to the pelvic area for example can result in temporary and even permanent infertility, which where it is a perceived threat to a patient, will be thoroughly discussed and in that way ‘taken on board’ before treatment begins (your consultant will attend to this). Nevertheless, ultimately it is for the patient and their spouse/partner to make these admittedly difficult and painful choices, since in reality, this can sometimes represent the only meaningful way forward. One possible approach to overcoming likely infertility in males is, as we have noted previously, to store sperm (again, the hospital consultant will advise accordingly).

For the female patient, an alternative anti-cancer approach may be open via surgery, i.e. as opposed to radiotherapy, that is.  Then again, if you have had your family or are moving on in years, this may not be such a difficult choice to have to make.  It is so very important that you should use every means open and available to sensitively and thoroughly discuss options. This will almost certainly include dialogue with your GP, as well as with your hospital consultant and indeed, any other tried and trusted source of competent and sympathetic advice.

May I respectfully suggest that the step thereafter – possibly with a confidante and trusted friend and/or appropriate family member(s) – is to lay out the relevant issues side by side, even employing pencil and paper to do so. In almost all major matters of decision-making with which I have been involved over the years, I truly have derived great benefit from the “balance sheet” approach, i.e. a debit and credit column to which one may assign factors and issues, weighted accordingly. Also be prepared to take account of the likelihood that some items listed may require a “percentage” approach concerning judgements to be made, i.e. 80 percent debit, 20 percent credit and so on.  Once again, I am a great believer in trying for all one is worth, to make a rational and balanced judgement to which thereafter one may possess genuine grounds to hold. Of course, such a method for resolving vexed and stressful issues and questions will not work for everyone and possibly not for you.  On the other hand, this approach – or a variant of it – may be well worth more than just a cursory glance and if it suits, then certainly I would commend it to you.

Loss – albeit mostly of a temporary nature – which can cause deep concern, is that of the hair and I intend to refer again to this in greater detail in a future blog.  However – if I may say so here – the belief sometimes encountered that all radiotherapy causes hair loss is certainly not true. Indeed, it is only likely to occur in radiotherapy where such treatment is to the head itself. In the overwhelming number of cases the hair will begin to grow in again once treatment has ceased.


  • ·  Having their episodic cause in the mind, but with physical or bodily origin (as opposed to “psychosomatic”, which describes bodily and physical outcomes which arise wholly from mental processes).

 

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