Managing the adverse effects of radiation therapy

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Abstract

Nearly two thirds of patients with cancer will undergo radiation therapy as part of their treatment plan. Given the increased use of radiation therapy and the growing number of cancer survivors, family physicians will increasingly care for patients experiencing adverse effects of radiation. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been shown to significantly improve symptoms of depression in patients undergoing chemotherapy, although they have little effect on cancer-related fatigue. Radiation dermatitis is treated with topical steroids and emollient creams. Skin washing with a mild, unscented soap is acceptable. Cardiovascular disease is a well-established adverse effect in patients receiving radiation therapy, although there are no consensus recommendations for cardiovascular screening in this population. Radiation pneumonitis is treated with oral prednisone and pentoxifylline. Radiation esophagitis is treated with dietary modification, proton pump inhibitors, promotility agents, and viscous lidocaine. Radiation-induced emesis is ameliorated with 5-hydroxytryptamine3 receptor antagonists and steroids. Symptomatic treatments for chronic radiation cystitis include anticholinergic agents and phenazopyridine. Sexual dysfunction from radiation therapy includes erectile dysfunction and vaginal stenosis, which are treated with phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors and vaginal dilators, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-388
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican family physician
Volume82
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Family Practice

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