Stomach Cancer (cont.)
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Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cells only in the part of the body that is treated. Radiation therapy is usually given with chemotherapy to treat stomach cancer.
The radiation comes from a large machine outside the body. You'll go to a hospital or clinic for treatment. Treatments are usually 5 days a week for several weeks.
Side effects depend mainly on the dose and type of radiation. External radiation therapy to the chest and abdomen may cause a sore throat, pain similar to heartburn, or pain in the stomach or the intestine. You may have nausea and diarrhea. Your health care team can give you medicines to prevent or control these problems.
It's common for the skin in the treated area to become red, dry, tender, and itchy.
You're likely to become very tired during radiation therapy, especially in the later weeks of treatment. Resting is important, but doctors usually advise patients to try to stay active, unless it leads to pain or other problems.
Although the side effects of radiation therapy can be distressing, your doctor can usually treat or control them. Also, side effects usually go away after treatment ends.
You may want to ask your doctor these questions before having radiation therapy:
How do I go about getting a second opinion?
Before starting treatment, you might want a second opinion from another doctor about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Some people worry that their doctor will be offended if they ask for a second opinion. Usually the opposite is true. Most doctors welcome a second opinion. And many health insurance companies will pay for a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it. Some companies require a second opinion.
If you get a second opinion, the doctor may agree with your first doctor's diagnosis and treatment plan. Or the second doctor may suggest another approach. Either way, you'll have more information and perhaps a greater sense of control. You may also feel more confident about the decisions you make, knowing that you've looked carefully at your options.
It may take some time and effort to gather your medical records and see another doctor. Usually it's not a problem if it takes you several weeks to get a second opinion. In most cases, the delay in starting treatment will not make treatment less effective. To make sure, you should discuss this possible delay with your doctor. Some people with stomach cancer need treatment right away.
There are many ways to find a doctor for a second opinion. You can ask your doctor, a local or state medical society, a nearby hospital, or a medical school for names of specialists.
Also, you can request a consultation with specialists at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Specialists in the NCI Surgery Branch provide consultations and surgical care for people with stomach cancer. The telephone number is 301-496-4164. The Web site is located at http://ccr.cancer.gov/labs/lab.asp?labid=93.
The NCI Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) or at LiveHelp (http://www.cancer.gov/help) can tell you about nearby treatment centers.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/28/2014
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