Depending on the type and dosage of radiation given, tolerance of the patient and stage of cancer, radiation therapy can have a lot of side effects on the patients in the treatment of pancreatic cancer :
Exposure to high radiation leads to tiredness. This can last up to several weeks post treatment also.
Nausea and vomiting:
When radiation is given to the pancreas, the surrounding organs like the stomach and the intestines are also affected. This can lead to disturbances in digestion causing vomiting which makes the patient weak.
The bowels will be also be affected due to the radiotherapy. This can lead to lower abdomen pain and watery stools.
Problems with eating and drinking:
Patients often have heartburns and indigestion post radiotherapy, because of which they cannot eat everything.
Radiation causes skin peeling, itching and blistering. This is rare when the radiation is given to the pancreas though but they last up to a several weeks after the treatment is stopped.
Improper intake of food can lead to a weight loss.
Soreness and swelling:
The area where the radiation is given often gets sore and swells. This is a common side effect and lasts upto a few days post treatment.
Abnormalities in blood cell count:
High dosage of radiation can lower the blood cell count in the body.
1. Anemia: Less number of red blood cells in the body causes severe weakness.
2. Infections: Lower white blood cell count makes the patient prone to infections.
Post radiation, lower platelet counts cause difficulties in blood clotting.
When radiation is given to the pancreas, it can have an effect on the kidneys as well, by causing a renal failure. The inability of the kidneys to filter waste is known as renal failure. The urinary bladder is also affected.
When radiation is given to the pancreas, changes in blood pressure and heart rhythm is common phenomenon. These is a long term side effects and can lead to heart attacks in the long run.
Radiation given to any part of the body can lead to severe hair loss.