Radiotherapy for throat cancer – Week 3

This weekend my dad came round for dinner.

Now into week three of the radiotherapy for throat cancer, the side effects of the treatment are beginning to show, but he’s still generally well and able to go about his daily life as normal, despite feeling tired most of the time.

 

Thick saliva and mucus

So far, his biggest issue is that the saliva and mucus in his throat has become noticeable thicker, so he’s constantly sipping fresh water to help. He’s also carrying out the physiotherapy given to him to keep his throat muscles strong.

 

Lack of sense of taste

Another side effect of the radiotherapy for throat cancer that he is experiencing is a loss of taste. In fact, he says there are some foods he can’t taste at all. However, he’s been told this will eventually return once the radiotherapy is completed and he has recovered.

 

Swelling in the cheeks

I noticed dad has a swelling in his upper neck towards his cheeks, which we’re calling is “hamster face”. There is also some slight brusing directly to the area where the treatment is being provided.

 

Overall, progress so far is very positive

Despite the side effects dad’s experiencing so far, it’s all very positive. They are annoying, and he’s tired, but these things are to be expected. However, he’s maintaining his weight and still able to do some activities.

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Radiotherapy for throat cancer

As my dad progressed in his treatment, it became closed to the day when he would start 3 months of radiotherapy for throat cancer.

When we initially found out he would need radiotherapy, I immediately turned to the internet to find out more about it (I knew nothing previously). The first video I watched was one by McMillan which explained how the treatment was administered.

Since then, dad has been to the local cancer department of our local hospital and been ‘measured up’ for the machine and also been through a dry run.

 

Making the Radiotherapy mask

First of all, he was fitted for a mask. This involved making a plaster cast of his upper body, neck and head. He was placed onto a bed and strips of plaster were slowly added to his upper body until a cast was made. This was then removed from him and left to dry.

Over the next few days, the cast was transferred onto a plastic mould. This will eventually be used to clamp him onto the radiotherapy table to ensure he is kept as still as possible during the 20 minute bursts of treatment.

He’s described the mask as being “a little uncomfortable”.

 

Tattoo markings

To ensure that the radiotherapy machine can be aligned exactly the same place every day, his has been marked with some tattoos. This is important during radiotherapy for throat cancer as it ensures that the dosage is directed at the right place every time.

Read next: My dad has throat cancer

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