How dexamethasone can help patients undergoing radiation therapy
In terms of the havoc it can wage on a person’s life, from their physical to their emotional well-being, cancer is as destructive a disease as any. Whether Stage 1 or 4, there’s a host of options patients choose to combat the invader, from chemotherapy and radiation treatments to even holistic therapies. However, regardless of how one chooses to attack it, side effects are bound to occur, and they can be as debilitating as anything.
When going the more traditional route of radiation therapy, there are two types of delivery method used to try and reduce the side effects radiation can have on the body. The first is to split the radiation into a number of doses instead of just one big dose.
That way, the body can absorb it more slowly and there may be less of a physical impact on the patient. Dose fractionation usually means the radiation will be administered daily, five days out of the week. In between treatments, there can be a recovery of normal tissues while cancer cells will generally have less capability of recovery.
The other method of administering radiation therapy to lessen side effects is through Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), which delivers varying intensity of radiation with a rotating device. By specifically targeting the areas most affected by the cancer, it spares the normal tissue from the damage caused by radiation.
Still, no matter what route is taken with radiation therapy, side effects are still practically inevitable, and depending on the patient’s constitution, they can be brutal. Steroids, which are naturally occurring hormones produced by the adrenal glands, can be used as a part of the radiation therapy treatments to lessen the adverse reaction the body may have to it. Dexamethasone is one of the most common steroids prescribed by physicians. It helps decrease the swelling in body tissues, which can cause a patient to be in a great deal of pain, by preventing the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation. As many as one-third of patients receiving palliative radiotherapy for bone metastases suffer from pain flares and a single dose of dexamethasone can decrease the incidence of such flares within a day or two after radiation therapy is administered. Overall it can seriously improve the quality of life for patients with serious or life-threatening cancers (and other diseases).
As well, using dexamethasone can prevent radiation-induced vomiting, particularly for those patients in treatment for cancers occurring in the abdomen. The benefits of using a steroid like dexamethasone far out-weigh the negative impact radiation therapy can have on the body without it. Regardless of the treatment route an individual patient opts for, dexamethasone can spare them from unnecessary pain and suffering.
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