Healing Radiation-induced Dysphagia- Difficulty Swallowing-

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Healing Radiation-induced dysphagia is possible. Remember that the sooner you diagnose it and begin undergoing healing therapies, the better chance you have of healing your own.

During the fall of 1993, I developed a pain in my neck. What began as an annoyance became serious enough pain to get an x-ray. The x-ray led to surgery and the surgery led to a pathologist explaining that I had multiple myeloma. An incurable but very treatable blood cancer.

Surgery to remove the single plasmacytoma followed by local radiation to “clean up the area” led to Radiation-induced dysphagia, and difficulty swallowing.

Keep in mind that while both my dysphagia and xerostomia were caused by the same therapy, they are two different side effects, two different health challenges, etc.

Benefit of this therapy? 

I developed full multiple myeloma less than a year after this diagnosis of a single bone plasmacytoma (SBP) as well as local radiation to my neck. I don’t see how radiation therapy could have provided any benefit to me. The negative aspects of dysphagia will probably lead to my complete inability to swallow.

The blog posts linked below document this side effect, my therapies, coping mechanisms, etc for my dysphagia.

Like all my other long-term and late stage side effects,

  • I was not told about the likelihood of this side effect before I had this therapy
  • I had to figure out the side-effect, the seriousness or quality-of-life challenges that the side effect would cause and possible therapies to either heal or at least stabilize my dysphagia
  • I wrote about the experience in PeopleBeatingCancer.org over the months and years following treatment

In short, this post and links to my blog posts documenting this side effect is designed to address my mantra of  “I wish I knew then what I know now-

Alternatives to local radiation therapy?

Though I developed full-blown MM less than a year after my local radiation, I do believe that this therapy- local radiation- was needed. I have worked with many patients who have also been diagnosed with a single-bone plasmacytoma (SBP) and many live with this pre-myeloma diagnosis for years.

Therapies to heal radiation fibrosis?

Both resveratrol and acupuncture have been shown to reduce the damage done by radiation (resveratrol) and heal xerostomia. I do both therapies and have for years now. The only addendum I would add is to begin this therapy ASAP following local radiation to your head and neck area. I would also consider hyperbaric oxygen therapy immediately following radiation therapy.

In short, this post and links to my blog posts documenting this side effect is designed to address my mantra of  “I wish I knew then what I know now-

As of today, July 2021, I consider my radiation-induced dysphagia to be progressing but only very slowly. I believe I am almost stable.

  • I have learned to ALWAYS have liquid available when I’m eating, (in case a piece of food get stuck in my throat)
  • Part of my daily physical therapy is a series of shaker exercises (neck sit-ups)
  • I anticipate losing my voice at any crowded, noisy event
  • Most importantly, I know that I have to work to keep my ability to swallow for the rest of my life

Scroll down the page to post questions or comments.

Thank you,

David Emerson

  • MM Survivor
  • MM Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Recommended Reading:

Anticipate,Treat Difficulty Swallowing- Dysphagia

Dysphagia increased by 11.7% over the 10‐year period. Prevalence was highest after chemoradiation and multimodality therapy…

If you have had radiation or surgery to your neck for any reason and you notice yourself choking or foods getting stuck more often in your throat, you may be experiencing early dysphagia. You still have time to begin an exercise regimen that can prevent you from developing serious swallowing problems…”

Multiple Myeloma Side Effects- Dysphagia aka Difficulty Swallowing

“…Now 20 years later I noticed that I was having problems swallowing solid food. After several tests including endoscopies, CAT scans, biopsies, etc. it was determined that there was fibrosis from the radiation (dysphagia)…

I recently began physical therapy including myofascial release massage therapy. I am hoping that it helps release the swallow muscles so I can enjoy food again. I wanted to share this experience so that others with the same issue do not have to go through several months of tests when it should’ve been determined sooner that it was fibrosis from radiation…

I’ve been doing neck exercises for the past 5 or so years. Though I don’t believe my swallowing muscles will ever be 100%, I do think that my daily Shaker exercise routine will enable me to live and swallow pretty normally for the rest of my life.

I recommend the Shaker Exercise. Here are several videos to demonstrate.…”

Multiple Myeloma Radiation Side Effect

Any tissue within the radiation field can experience (side effect) radiation fibrosis including nerves, muscles, blood vessels, bones, tendons, ligaments, heart or lungs.”

Not every multiple myeloma (MM) patient who undergoes radiation therapy will experience the side effect called radiation fibrosis syndrome (RFS). But as Dr. Stubblefield concludes, “RFS is a common complication of radiation for certain types of cancer…

he important thing for anyone who will undergo radiation therapy or who already has undergone radiation therapy is that there are evidence-based therapies that can prevent, heal or slow the collateral damage caused by radiation therapy…”

Radiation-Induced Pain- Dermatitis, Dysphagia, CIPN, RILP

Tumor type, tumor severity, and cancer treatment strategies all factor into the pathogenesis of chronic pain, with estimates indicating chronic pain in 50% of those with early cancer and 75% of those with advanced disease…”

The article linked below talks about those specific types of pain caused by radiation therapy. I have excerpted the original article to cover only those types of radiation-induced pain that I live with. Specifically:





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