On 10 June 2010, I started my radiotherapy treatments at TTSH. The radiologist oncologists that attended to me was Dr. Lee. Before commencement of my radiotherapy treatment, Liu Ge and I met up with him whereby he went through with us on what to expect for the treatment and what side effects I might experience during the treatment. His program for my treatment was to be spread over 5 weeks of daily radiation (except Saturday & Sunday), where the focus will be at the region where my tumor was removed.
Radiotherapy is the medical use of energy to treat diseases. Special equipment is used during radiation therapy to deliver high doses of radiation to cancerous cells, killing or damaging them so they cannot grow, multiply, or spread.
External beam radiation is the most common type of radiotherapy and involves delivering radiation from a source outside of the body to a precise location inside the body.
Before radiation treatment commences, the treatment must be planned or simulated using computer technology. On 24 May 2010, I went to the Radiotherapy Centre to have 3 tattoo markers place on my body to indicate the region that the radiation beam will be focused. According to the therapist, the tattoo markers will be permanently marked to my body. But it is okay, since it is only a small marker and hardly noticeable.
The dosimetrist use a specialized computer program to create an exact representation of the best way to deliver a particular treatment plan for my treatment.
Radiation in high doses kills cells or keeps them from growing and dividing. When this radiation deposits it energy in human tissue, the radiation causes chemical changes that destabilize DNA, the genetic material that directs a cell how to grow, reproduce and die.
Both normal and cancerous cells are affected by radiation, but cancer cells divide rapidly than most of the cells around them (making them especially susceptible to radiation). In addition, cancerous cells do not have the same ability as normal cells to repair DNA damage. Radiation oncologists take advantage of the fact that the normal tissues can heal better from radiation than the cancer can.
To protect normal cells. the doctor carefully limit the doses of radiation to my body and spread the treatment out over 5 weeks. They also shield as much normal tissue as possible while they aim the radiation at the site of the cancer tumor that was removed earlier by surgery.
The radiation dosage must still be high enough to effectively kill as many cancer cells as possible, because even when cancer is not visible on a CT scan or other imaging studies, it may still exist on a microscopic level. Because these small clusters of cancer cells are capable of growing into larger tumors and can spread to other parts of my body, the radiation dosage represents a delicate balance. The risk of tissue damage and side effects must be balanced with the possible advantage to me in terms of tumor control and cure.
Although the radiation treatment itself was painless, the side effects that came with it was terrible. During those 5 weeks of radiotherapy, I visited the TTSH Radiation centre at basement 2 each morning for my treatment. The people there were very nice and the radiation therapists were very friendly and helpful. At the end of my 5-weeks of treatments, I even filled up a feedback form and gave very food good comments about their care and services to me.
Prior to my treatment, I had to bring 4 cups of water to fill up my bladder. The purpose of doing this was to protect my bladder and also to allow my intestine to spread out so that the radiation can get through to the rectum area where the radiation is targeted.
The treatment takes not more than 10 minutes each time. I will spread myself on a bed beside the huge equipment and the therapist will position me. I am not to move at all. Once everything is in-place, they will leave me alone in the treatment room and the radiation starts. The radiation is given to me covering 360 degrees around the area that is targeted. As mentioned, I feel nothing at all during the treatment. But what a discomfort to me after that when the side effects from the treatment kicks in.
During my radiotherapy treatments I suffered acute side effects that included diarrhea and weight loss, nausea, skin “burning” in my anus region which resulted in weakness to my body and fatigue. hair loss also occurred in the areas of the body that are in the irradiated area.
At the moment, I had completed 3 cycles of chemotherapy and 5 weeks of radiotherapy. I still got 5 cycles of chemotherapy to complete. My next cycle will commence on 10 August 2010.