Total Body Irradiation: Get Answers To Your Questions

Total body irradiation is the medical use of radiation to destroy cancer cells throughout the body. Oncologists use the procedure for patients scheduled for bone marrow transplants—treatment doctors often recommend for certain cancers or diseases that affect the production of bone marrow cells.

If your doctor schedules you for total body irradiation, it’s natural to have fears and anxieties relating to the process. Therefore, it’s important to ask questions to get the full benefit that this or any medical treatment has to offer.

Why do doctors recommend total body irradiation prior to a bone marrow transplant?

Total body irradiation is a treatment that prepares the body to accept the donor stem cells. Chemotherapy—another cancer treatment that uses drugs—doesn’t always reach cancer cells in the brain or spine. Oncologists also recommend total body irradiation to destroy cancer cells in the bones and deep scar tissue.

Another reason for the use of total body irradiation prior to a bone marrow transplant is to suppress the immune system response. This prevents your body from trying to destroy the healthy donor cells as foreign invaders. Total body irradiation also stops blood cell production in the marrow, making space for new blood cells following transplantation to reproduce and grow.

What factors does a treatment team take into account when planning total body irradiation?

Oncologists often use total body irradiation in combination with chemotherapy. The challenge is to use a dose of radiation low enough so that any healthy cells damaged during treatment can recover.

Since the lungs are highly sensitive to radiation, they will receive a lower dose of radiation than the rest of your body. The use of shields known as lung blocks also helps prevent lung damage.

However, the bones in the chest wall behind the blocks contain a significant amount of bone marrow. Therefore, you will receive radiation to the front and back of your chest wall without the blocks during some treatment sessions.

How does total body irradiation as part of the treatment protocol work?

Your oncologist will plan the dose of radiation that you will receive over a period of several days prior to your bone marrow transplant. The actual treatment schedule varies depending on the disease for which you are being treated as well as the type of bone marrow transplant you will receive.

You will be scheduled for multiple radiation therapy sessions each day of treatment. In some cases, certain areas of your body will receive extra doses of radiation before you receive total body irradiation.

Once the radiation therapists position you for total body irradiation, it’s important not to move so that the radiation is evenly distributed over your body. During each treatment, you will receive radiation to the front of your body and then the back.

What are the potential side effects during and following total body irradiation?

Because radiation therapy damages healthy cells along with cancerous cells in the body, you may experience side effects. The treatment itself is painless, but the severity of any side effects you may experience can vary depending on the dose of radiation you receive.

Common side effects include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and headache. Some side effects occur during the days when you are receiving treatments; others do not occur for weeks or even months after treatment. Additional side effects—which also may be side effects of chemotherapy you are receiving—include hair loss, low blood counts, and mouth sores.

Although rare, long-term side effects that can occur months or years later include cataracts and inflammation of the lungs or sac surrounding the heart. In some cases, new cancers may develop.

Why is it important to ask questions?

Knowing the details of why your doctor is recommending total body irradiation and how it will be done can help assure you that your health care team is committed to doing what is best for your particular situation. Asking questions also allows you to take a more active involvement in your treatment decisions. Click here for more information on radiation therapy in your area.

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Back Pain Affecting How You Sleep? Here Are Some Things To Try

One of the most troubling issues about back pain is that it can bother you when you’re trying to sleep. A string of sleepless nights that result from back pain can leave you not only tired, but also grumpy and in even more pain than usual, given that your body hasn’t had a chance to heal during deep sleep. You’ll want to consult a back care professional who can determine why your back is sore, treat the discomfort in any number of ways, and give you exercises that you can do to manage your pain. In the meantime, here are some strategies that can help you get better sleep.

Don’t Exercise Too Late

Exercise can be an ally when it comes to sleeping. When you’re active during the day, you may feel more tired — and this can be enough to let you fall asleep, even if your back is a little sore. You need to be careful about when you exercise, though. Some people find that exercising too late can make sleep a challenge. While exercise may make your sore back feel better, a workout before bedtime can awaken your body and give you trouble with dozing off. You’re better off keeping your workout to anytime before dinner, if possible.

Avoid Late Use Of Electronics

Whether you watch TV for an hour before bed or get into bed and go through some emails and apps on your smartphone, it’s easy to rely on electronics during the evening. This usage, however, may prove to be detrimental to your sleep. Using electronics in the evening can stimulate your brain, making you feel less tired than you might otherwise. This means that once you turn off the light and lie down, you may feel somewhat awake, and thus more aware of your back pain. When possible, try to avoid using electronic devices soon before bed.

Try Some Stretching

While vigorous exercise before bed can rev up your body, the same isn’t true about light stretching. Whether you’re into yoga or you just want to try some gentle stretches like you might do before or after a workout, try these before bed. Keep the bedroom lights low and consider playing some relaxing songs on your MP3 player. Stretching your back and other major muscles throughout your body can make them feel better, which can help you feel more relaxed once you climb into bed and, ideally, allow you to fall asleep easily.

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Take These Steps Before You Visit A Walk-In Clinic For Constipation

If you’ve gone several days without moving your bowels and are feeling sick, you might wish to visit a local walk-in clinic like the one at Milford Hospital. There, you can receive anti-constipation medication or even have an enema. Before you visit the center, however, there are a few last-minute things that you can try. In many cases, the following steps will allow you to successfully move your bowels and get rid of the bloating and discomfort that may be bothering you. Here are some things to try.

Go For A Walk

Exercise is a valuable ally when you’re constipated. When you move, you can help your sluggish digestive system move food along. There are no set rules about what type of exercise you should try, but a simple walk can be effective and comfortable if you’re already feeling bloated and sore. Walk at a pace that is suitable to you, and then return home to rest. In many cases, you’ll soon be able to feel things percolating a little, which may mean that you’ll soon be able to move your bowels.

Drink More Water

People who are dehydrated will often suffer from constipation. If you don’t drink water regularly, you may find that simply starting to drink more will awaken your sluggish digestive system. Drink several glasses of water and see how you feel. If you aren’t fond of drinking water on its own, add a few squeezes of lemon juice. Stay away from other beverages, however, and focus on water. Some people find that drinking hot water can also be valuable for creating the need to move their bowels.

Rub Your Abdomen

In many cases, you can rub your own abdomen to encourage your digestive system to move your food along. In fact, many massage therapists will offer abdominal massage as a way to help their clients who are suffering from constipation. The key is to rub your abdomen in the right direction — moving your fingertips along in a clockwise manner (for someone looking at you) is integral, as this is the path that your large intestine takes. Sit upright and, with your right hand, press your fingers, into your lower abdomen just to the right of your navel. Then, move the fingers up to the bottom of your ribs, across to the left side of your abdomen, and down. Repeat this pattern, using some oil to aid in the movement. If you aren’t able to fix your constipation, seek medical care at a walk-in clinic.

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Proactive Tips For Talking To Your Parent About Moving To An Assisted Living Facility

If you have been thinking about talking to your parent about their need to move to an assisted living facility, here are some tips to make that process go smoothly:

Tip: Know the Signs that Your Parent is a Good Candidate for Assisted Living

Before you broach the topic of moving into an assisted living facility with your parent, first you must be sure it is the most appropriate option. Your parent is in need of assisted living if they have any of the following life challenges:

  • frequent falls
  • a decline in overall health
  • a decline in mental capacity
  • the inability to maintain their home
  • the inability to prepare food daily
  • a need for dressing and grooming assistance

Also, if your parent does not have any family who live near them that can help out on a regular basis, then this is also a reason assisted living makes sense.

Tip: Acknowledge the Feelings that Talking about Assisted Living Bring to the Surface

Before you can talk to your parent about moving into an assisted living facility, you need to acknowledge that talking about this type of move generally brings up some negative feelings. For example, your parent will likely be reminded of their mortality and may be angry about their perceived loss of independence. Don’t ignore these issues and be prepared to have an honest conversation about them with your parent.

Tip: Enlist the Help of Your Siblings and Your Parent’s Doctor

Sit down with your siblings before you ever broach the topic of assisted living with your parent. Make sure that everyone is on the same page and will be supportive of this necessary move. In addition, if you have the ability to speak with your parent’s doctor, then you should enlist their support as well. Sometimes it happens that a parent doesn’t want to listen to their children, but they will listen to a trusted doctor who suggests it is best for their future health if they move into an assisted living apartment.

Tip: Always Remember that Your Parent is an Adult and the Decision to Move is Largely Theirs to Make

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that your parent is a grown adult and is largely responsible for making the decision about where they live. If you approach your parent from a place of caring and asking their opinion, then you will likely be more successful. For more information, visit

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Springtime Colds, Allergies, And Urgent Care Centers: When Do You Need A Doctor?

Springtime colds and allergies are no fun. After a long winter, you are ready to be outside, but your sinuses and your body suddenly have plans to prolong bed rest. If you do stay in bed, how long is too long? When should you stop treating your symptoms on your own? Do you need to see your doctor, or will a doctor in an urgent care center do? Answers follow.

When the Cold Lasts Longer Than Ten Days

If you have a cold, it will be accompanied by a cough. When the cough, and your cold, does not go away after ten days (which is the maximum time most doctors allow for a cold), you should see a doctor. An urgent care doctor in this case is sufficient, unless the urgent care doctor suspects pneumonia and does not have access to an x-ray machine. Then you should try to see your own doctor as soon as possible.

When Allergies Are Accompanied by Sour Smells, Yellow or Green Mucous and/or Migraines

Allergies in the spring are pretty straightforward. The grass is coming up and the pollen from tree buds is popping. You may have all of the usual allergy symptoms, and the allergy medication you take works just fine. It is when the allergy medication does not seem to be working and/or you have a sour smell in your nose, you have yellow or green mucous discharge from your nose, and/or migraines. These symptoms are good indicators that your allergy has gone from an allergy to a sinus infection. Your allergy may still be present, but now you have something else more serious to contend with. An urgent care doctor will diagnose the problem and probably put you on an antibiotic, and possibly and anti-migraine medication too (if applicable).

When You Have a Fever

Fevers do not usually accompany colds and allergies. If you spike a fever and the fever hangs around, definitely seek urgent medical attention. A fever tells the doctor that there is something else more serious taking place in your body than a cold or an allergy. He or she has to find the source of this fever and vanquish it, or you may be feeling deathly ill for a while.

The Rest of the Time

The rest of the time, just rest. Symptoms will eventually subside, even though they are unpleasant right now. If you saw an urgent care doctor with anything less than the above issues, he or she would probably just send you home and tell you to rest anyway. For more information, contact establishments like La Costa Urgent Care.

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