Any form of breast cancer treatment has its downsides, and radiation therapy is no exception. But a survey of breast cancer patients who had gone through breast cancer from 2012 to 2016 found that this treatment, also known as radiotherapy, isn’t as bad as most people expect it to be.
Of the 300 people surveyed, more than 80 percent said that radiation therapy was not as bad as they expected. 50 percent had heard horror stories previous to treatment, and 94 percent were frightened of having radiation therapy. Only 3 percent said the stories they heard were true.
Researchers posit that one reason why radiotherapy isn’t as bad as patients expect may be that the way radiation therapy is delivered has changed over the years. The patient experience has been transformed into a more comfortable one. Individual plans are created for each patient, and those plans are shorter and more schedule-friendly than they used to be and involve as few vital organs as possible to avoid causing extra side effects.
Another reason may simply be that the word “radiation” is scary in and of itself. We’ve been taught that radiation is very dangerous, an invisible killer, and that thought continues to permeate our minds, even though we should know by now that the medical technique involving radiation is much safer than, say, the radiation given off by a nuclear explosion.
“The word radiation itself sounds frightening and is associated with many negative news stories,” says Dr. Narek Shaverdian, of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Whatever the reason, radiation therapy is being underused by breast cancer patients, while more invasive treatments like double mastectomies are being overused—meaning some patients opt for them even if they’re not medically necessary or recommendable as a “better” treatment option over radiation. Dr. Shaverdian continues:
“The vast majority of patients agreed that if future patients knew the real truth about radiation therapy, they would be less scared about treatment.”
It’s time to spread the word that radiation is not as bad as everyone thinks!
Perhaps a switch to the use of the word “radiotherapy” or another term that doesn’t involve the word “radiation” in the medical field could make the situation seem less scary for patients. Or perhaps all it takes is some extra education, like a simple pamphlet or extra training for doctors, to make breast cancer patients realize that radiation therapy may be the perfect fit for them.
You can share this article with your friends to get the word out that radiation therapy is not as bad as everyone thinks!
Click “next” below to read about several radiation therapy myths many people still believe.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?