Radiation therapy: the response of the hematopoietic system in oncology patients
Radiation therapy is an important part of the treatment plan for many cancer patients. It’s also one of the most common causes of early mortality in such patients.
So why does radiation therapy have such a bad reputation?
It’s not because it doesn’t work—rather, it’s because it works so well that it can destroy your body’s ability to produce red blood cells and white blood cells, which are critical components of your immune system and help you fight infections. Radiation also affects your bone marrow, where this production takes place.
Radiation therapy can create a wide range of symptoms, from fatigue and nausea to hair loss, abdominal pain, and bleeding from the rectum or vagina. These symptoms occur as early as one day after treatment starts and may last for several months afterward. They differ depending on how much radiation you received, how long you received it for, whether or not your entire body was exposed (in which case your immune system will be affected), and even how much time has passed since receiving treatment.
The good news is that most people who receive radiation therapy are able to recover their ability to produce new blood cells within one year of treatment completion; however, some people do not fully recover their immune function