August 15, 2019
Radiation therapy is a common treatment for cancer.
It uses energy to destroy cancer cells. Usually, radiation therapy uses x-rays, but may also use other kinds of energy. There are two kinds of radiation therapy. In one, beams of energy are aimed at the part of the body affected by cancer using a machine. In the other, a source of radiation is placed inside the body near the tumor.
The kind of radiation therapy your aging relative receives will depend on the kind of cancer they have, its location, and other factors. Knowing what to expect during radiation therapy can help both you and your loved one be prepared for what is ahead.
Why Radiation Therapy?
About half of all people with cancer are treated with radiation therapy. It is used on all kinds of cancer and even for the treatment of some non-cancerous growths. Radiation therapy may be used to cure cancer, keep it from coming back, or to slow or stop tumor growth. It may also be used for palliative treatment, which means the purpose is to ease the symptoms a person is experiencing because of cancer.
Radiation therapy may be used in combination with other cancer treatments as well. It is sometimes used prior to surgery to remove a tumor to decrease the tumor’s size, making it easier to remove. It can also be used with chemotherapy to help in destroying cancer cells.
Preparing for Radiation Therapy
Your aging relative’s cancer team will walk them through what to expect and how to prepare. Part of the planning process will be:
Simulation: Before the actual treatment occurs, the team will do a practice round of the treatment with the patient. This allows them to find a comfortable position for the older adult to lie in during radiation. The team will also mark the part of the body that is to receive the treatment.
Planning Scans: The older adult will also have scans prior to treatment, such as a CT scan, to pinpoint the area of the body to receive radiation.
Caring for an Older Adult During Radiation Treatment
Radiation therapy can cause some side effects and emotional distress. To help your aging relative get through the treatment period, be sure they get enough rest, eat well, and offer them the emotional support they need. In addition, applying moisturizers to the area receiving radiation can help to keep the skin healthy. However, be sure to talk to the doctor about what kind of moisturizer to use.
Elderly care can assist older adults who are going through radiation therapy. An elderly care provider can drive them to radiation appointments and home again. Afterward, the elderly care provider can stay with the senior to make certain they feel well enough to be alone. Elderly care providers can also prepare healthy meals and snacks and allow the senior to rest while they take care of the house, answer the phone, and assist with pets.