And radiation damages other parts of the body too (see last post)
Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on September 23, 2013
Here is what a patient said about the undesired impacts of radiation treatment for anal cancer:
“Now lets get to the late effects of the treatment. Complete urinary incontinence. Partial fecal incontinence. (That means if I get loose stools I have no control. Some of this I can control with diet, anti-diarrhea pills or pain pills, that have a side effect of constipation.) Hip and pelvic pain. I had a double hip replacement during the year previous to the cancer diagnosis so when I heard that pelvic radiation patients had hip pain afterwards I figured I could skate on that one, after all my hips were titanium! WRONG. I also expected that these things would get better over time: diet and physical exercise. Again I was wrong. I am getting progressively worse. Chemo brain: I was led to believe that would improve over time. Nope: not better and maybe worse. Pain in my anal area? Feels like there is a tennis ball up there. Makes sitting very uncomfortable, to say the least.
I have also developed some heart wall thinning and depression.
I believe: (and have been told) cancer survivorship is a new field of medicine. Not a lot is known by a lot of Doctors, be they oncologist of primary care, especially around late and long term effects of the treatment. Because: cancer patients are living longer after treatment. One Senior Radiologist told me that my cancer is so rare that there have not been enough survivors to run a comprehensive study and that I wouldn’t live long enough for all the damage done to my intestines by the radiation to completely heal. “We pretty much fried everything in your pelvis and those burns heal very slowly: at about the same speed a glacier moves.” Encouraging? Hell, NO.
Back to the new oncology guy: he was at least honest with me when I asked about these late effects. I am quoting him: “Learn to cope. These symptoms are not going away. This is the price you pay for having had cancer. But at least you’re breathing.” I can’t even begin to tell you how much his words offended me: THE PRICE YOU PAY FOR HAVING CANCER? OMG: a blown transmission is the “price you pay” for having bought a used car. An STD is the “price you pay” for having unprotected sex. <- my words, not his. His are in quotes. And BTW: these were the words of the so-called "compassionate" oncologist. (I repeated this all to my gastroenterology doc last month, his response was about the same level mine was. He is also the only physician that asked me flat out "tell me how you are feeling." After which he left the room and came back with a referral to a cardiologist.) I see the cardiologist next month.
Yes, folks, we have the responsibility to help educate our doctors about late and long term effects of treatment. Maybe if we do those that come after us will receive better treatment."
Read that last paragraph again. This is something everyone affected by cancer therapies needs to do.