Radiation can damage lymphatics and cause lymphedema independently of surgery. When combined with surgical lymph node dissection, however, the risk of lym-phedema is compounded.
Radiation weakens bone. For example, painful sacral fractures are a late effect of pelvic radiation that can be concerning for local recurrence or osseous spread of a malignancy like rectal cancer. A history of radiation is associated with increased risk of spinal compression fractures within the field. Recently an increased risk of hip fracture has also been recognized following pelvic radiation.44 Providers must recognize that in these patients osteopenia and osteoporosis may be focal, and if present, consider interventions such as bisphosphonates and recommendations for weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise.
Was this article helpful?