Post-cancer TLC makes its mark

December 22, 2010

These drugs can be administered intravenously or orally, and can also be injected into a body cavity. Each drug works differently, but all are designed to attack and kill cancer cells by targeting their specific growth patterns. Unfortunately, healthy cells such as hair and blood cells often become the collateral damage of these aggressive assaults.

There are many difficult short-term and long-term side effects that chemotherapy patients must contend with, and fatality is one of them. Commonly, patients experience pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, mouth sores, hair loss and a lowered count of infection-fighting white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

More than half of all cancer patients undergo chemotherapy treatments at some point, and millions have gone on to live healthy and productive lives. (SOURCE:

RADIATION BACKGROUND: Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to damage the DNA of cancer cells, which diminishes their ability to reproduce rapidly and hopefully kills them.

There are two main types of radiation therapy: external (also called x-ray therapy), in which a machine called a linear accelerator shoots a single beam of radiation from outside the body, and internal (also called brachytherapy and implant therapy), in which a source of high-energy radioactivity called a "seed" is planted near the tumor. Both are given "locally," meaning that they only treat a specific section of the body.

Like chemotherapy, radiation is harmful to normal cells. Fortunately, normal cells grow at a slower rate, and are therefore able to repair themselves better than cancer cells.

Side effects include a sunburn-like skin reaction, hair loss, eating/digestion problems, weakness and fatigue. A condition called Neutropenia also can develop, wherein the patient experiences a decreased count of infection-fighting white blood cells called neutrophils, and is therefore more susceptible to many kinds of common illnesses like the flue and colds. (SOURCE:

POST-TREATMENT REHABILITATION: The National Rehabilitation Hospital is one of the few organizations nationwide addressing cancer patients' needs after chemotherapy. This often includes an intensive 6-8 week physical therapy program, including such motion-and-strength-building exercises as walking the wall, and the wand exercise. Both of these exercises help cancer patients reclaim the range-of-motion and strength that may have been destroyed during radiation and/or chemotherapy treatment.

? For More Information, Contact: Curtis L. Whitehair, MD The National Rehabilitation Hospital 202-877-1865

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