Radiation therapy for testicular cancer
Also known as radiotherapy, radiation therapy uses a controlled dose of radiation to kill cancer cells or damage them so they cannot grow, multiply or spread. The radiation is usually in the form of focused, high-energy x-ray beams.
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Having radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is not used very often for testicular cancer. It may be used instead of chemotherapy or surgery to treat seminoma cancer that has spread to lymph nodes in the abdomen.
Treatment is carefully planned to ensure that any remaining cancer cells are destroyed while causing the least possible harm to normal tissue. During a radiation therapy session, you will lie under a machine called a linear accelerator. The radiation is directed at the cancerous lymph nodes. The unaffected testicle may be covered with a lead barrier to help preserve your fertility.
Radiation therapy is painless and can’t be seen or felt. It is just like having an x-ray taken. The treatment itself takes only a few minutes, but each session may last 10–15 minutes because of the time it takes to set up the equipment and place you in the correct position. Most people have daily treatment sessions at a radiation therapy centre from Monday to Friday for 2–4 weeks. Your doctor will let you know how many sessions you need.
Side effects of radiation therapy
Radiation therapy can injure healthy cells at or near the treatment areas. This can cause a range of side effects, including fatigue, stomach and bowel problems, hair loss in the treatment area and bladder irritation.
In most cases, radiation therapy for testicular cancer won’t irritate the skin in the treatment area. If the skin does become red or sore, ask your treatment team about what type of cream to use to moisturise the skin.
Side effects often build up slowly and may be worse at the end of radiation therapy. Most side effects are temporary and go away in time, usually within a few weeks of treatment finishing. In the longer term, radiation therapy can affect your fertility, and increase the risk of developing a second cancer.
Your radiation oncologist will see you at least once a week to monitor and treat any side effects during the course of your treatment. You can also talk to a nurse if you are concerned about side effects.
For more on this, see Radiation therapy.
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Dr Benjamin Thomas, Urological Surgeon, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and The University of Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Ben Tran, Genitourinary Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and The University of Melbourne, VIC; Dr Nari Ahmadi, Urologist and Urological Cancer Surgeon, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Helen Anderson, Genitourinary Cancer Nurse Navigator, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Anita Cox, Youth Cancer – Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dr Tom Ferguson, Medical Oncologist, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Dr Leily Gholam Rezaei, Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Dheeraj Jain, Consumer; Amanda Maple, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Department of Urology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital and Headway Health, NSW.
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