Debunking 5 Myths About Radiation Therapy Treatments

Medically reviewed by Dr Johann Tang, Senior Consultant Radiation Oncologist
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Radiation therapy plays a key role in treating various types of cancer that patients present. However, it remains misunderstood by many, which can lead to patients refusing to seek treatment and resulting in poorer overall health outcomes. Read on as we debunk 5 common myths people have regarding radiation therapy in Singapore.

Myth 1: Radiation therapy will cause hair loss.

One of the most common worries Singaporeans have is that radiation therapy will cause hair loss, which can affect their self-esteem. In reality, side effects of radiation such as hair loss are usually determined by the region of the body that is receiving it. Hair loss is more likely to occur in patients who are undergoing radiation treatment for the head or scalp area, such as in the case of brain cancer. Fortunately, hair loss is temporary for the majority of patients who experience it, with hair usually growing back once radiation therapy has completed.

Myth 2: Radiation therapy is a painful affair. 

Patients may sometimes assume that radiation therapy involves painful procedures. In truth, the procedures are generally painless, with most radiation therapy in Singapore carried out in the form of external beam treatments, where a machine directs a stream of charged particles towards the affected area. Brachytherapy, or internal radiation therapy, will have anesthesia provided to relieve pain and discomfort as a catheter or applicator device is temporarily inserted into the body.

Patients may sometimes experience symptoms such as skin irritation, soreness, and redness, as well as ulcers in the case of treating head and neck cancers. Do let your radiation oncologist in Singapore know about these symptoms, so that they can prescribe medication to treat it and alter your radiation therapy treatment timeline if necessary.

Myth 3: Radiation therapy will make me radioactive.

With numerous safety precautions surrounding radiation exposure, patients may have the misconception that radiation therapy in Singapore can make one radioactive. The majority of radiation treatments do not leave any residual material in patients’ bodies, allowing them to spend time with their friends and loved ones without fear of adversely affecting their health.

An exception is for patients undergoing low dose rate brachytherapy, which involves the permanent insertion of radioactive ‘seed’ implants into the body to destroy cancer cells. Radiation oncologists in Singapore, along with their team of experienced staff, are well-versed in coming up with individualised treatment plans to promote comfort and provide recommendations to protect the health and wellbeing of you and your loved ones.

Myth 4: Radiation therapy causes nausea and vomiting.

Many cancer patients are concerned about experiencing nausea and vomiting as part of the side effects of radiation therapy in Singapore. Symptoms vary from patient to patient, as well as the region of the body that radiation is directed towards. Generally, nausea and vomiting are more likely to occur if the brain or the upper abdomen around the small intestine are being treated. Fortunately, nausea and vomiting are usually preventable and easily managed through medications prescribed by radiation oncologists.

Myth 5: Radiation therapy causes severe fatigue.

Singaporean patients are often concerned that radiation therapy will take a toll on their energy, resulting in fatigue and weakness that prevents them from working or being able to carry out daily activities. The truth is that it varies from patient to patient, based on factors such as whether radiation therapy is used together with chemotherapy, the type of radiation therapy received, as well as individuals’ overall health and the presence of other medical conditions, such as anemia. 

Radiation therapies such as IMRT feature precise direction of radiation as well as dosage, reducing radiation exposure to healthy tissue and in turn side effects such as fatigue. Patients should also eat a well-balanced diet, try to exercise regularly, as well as get plenty of rest before going for each treatment session to reduce the extent of fatigue.

Looking for a reputable clinic to seek radiation therapy in Singapore? Get in touch with us today to arrange for an appointment and consultation.

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Dr Johann Tang

Senior Consultant Radiation Oncologist
Medical Director of ME Novena Specialist Group Pte Ltd
MBBS (Aust), FRANZCR (Radiation Oncology)

Dr Johann Tang is the Senior Consultant and Medical Director of ME Novena Specialist Group Pte Ltd. at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and an Assistant Professor at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University Singapore.  Dr Tang’s journey towards being a radiation oncologist in Singapore started with him obtaining his medical degree from the University of Newcastle, Australia, in 1998 and completing his house officer training at the Hunter Area Health Service before returning to Singapore to complete his National Service in the Singapore Armed Forces Medical Corps. Thereafter, he did his specialty training in Radiation Oncology in Singapore at the National University Hospital (NUH). After obtaining his fellowship from the Royal Australian College of Radiologists (FRANZCR) in 2007, Dr Tang underwent breast brachytherapy fellowships at the University of Wisconsin as well as prostate brachytherapy, skin, and paediatric fellowships at the Peter Maccallum Cancer Institute, Australia. In 2021, Dr Tang underwent a fellowship at the New York Proton Centre with Dr Charles Simone in head and neck, re-irradiation, paediatric, prostate, and lung cancers.

Why Choose Dr Johann Tang

Dr Johann Tang is an experienced radiation oncologist and cancer doctor who aims to deliver the highest level of care to his patients, especially when it comes to radiation therapy and cancer treatment. As a cancer specialist in Singapore, he is dedicated to understanding each patient’s condition and providing holistic, customised care that is both effective and compassionate. With ethics and empathy at the core of our practice, we strive to understand your individual needs and provide care that is compassionate and responsive.

Experienced Radiation Oncologist

Dr Johann Tang is a highly experienced radiation oncologist and cancer specialist in Singapore, with over 20 years of experience treating various cancers in both adults and children and several accolades to his name. Prior to entering private practice, where he is currently a senior consultant and medical director. Dr Tang was at NUH for 18 years, from 2001 to 2019. Dr Tang spearheaded and built up the breast brachytherapy (Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation APBI), outpatient interstitial image-guided cervical brachytherapy, and paediatric radiation therapy services at NUH to provide an array of the latest and best cancer treatment options for patients. As a cancer doctor, Dr Tang is also passionately involved in research, having authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and won several research prizes.

Evidence-based Treatments

Dr Johann Tang and his team utilise technology that has proven to be effective in cancer treatment. Having decades of experience in treating and researching the disease has enabled Dr Tang to remain current and on top of best practices and novel techniques, providing his patients with full assurance that they are receiving the most effective treatment available.

Patient-centered Care

Dr Johann Tang’s patients are his top priority. He journeys with them from diagnosis until the completion of treatment. With Dr Tang, all patients can be fully assured that their clinical needs and well-being are attended to. Dr Tang is also passionately involved in research, having authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and winning several research prizes.

"I guarantee my very best expertise delivered with compassion and dignity as we journey TOGETHER to BEAT this dreaded illness."

- Dr Johann Tang

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ME Novena Specialist Group
@ Mt. Elizabeth Novena Hospital

  • 38 Irrawaddy Road #08-36/7/8/9 Singapore 329563
  • Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 12:00pm

    Sat: 8:30am-12:00pm

    Sun & Public Holidays: Closed

ME Novena Specialist Group Pte Ltd
@ Proton Therapy SG

  • Amnios Building 1 Biopolis Drive, #01-01 Singapore 138622
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    Sun & Public Holidays: Closed

ME Novena Specialist Group
@ Mt Alvernia

  • 820 Thomson Road, #06-65/66 Mount Alvernia Hospital Medical Centre Block D Singapore 574623
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    Sat: 8:30am-12:00pm

    Sun & Public Holidays: Closed

ME Novena Specialist Group Pte Ltd
@ Farrer Park Hospital

  • 1 Farrer Park Station Road, #11-01 Connexion Singapore 217562
  • Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 12:00pm

    Sat: 8:30am-12:00pm

    Sun & Public Holidays: Closed