Personal Care During Radiation Therapy

Get plenty of rest
Many patients experience fatigue during radiation therapy, so it is important rest. Be willing to accept assistance from friends and family during treatment. Loved ones and supportive friends want to help and can take care of errands and meal preparation. Accepting support enables you to use your energy for your most important task, treatment of cancer.

Follow doctor’s orders
The Radiation Oncologist or oncology RN need to know if a patient develops a fever 101 degrees. Please read self care instructions and develop a strong partnership between the radiation oncology treatment team, and the patient and family. 

Nutrition and Radiation Therapy
During Radiation Therapy, the recommendation is to maintain your current diet unless you have been instructed otherwise by the Radiation Oncologist or the Oncology Dietitian. Weight loss is not recommended during radiation treatment because it could alter the precise treatment location. The Radiation Oncologist, Oncology Dietitian or Oncology RN may recommend dietary changes to help manage side effects that are a result of radiation therapy. After treatment, the Oncology Dietitian can optimize food choices that help reduce the risk of disease recurrence.

Treat the skin that is exposed to radiation with extra care
The skin in the area receiving treatment may become red and sensitive, similar to getting a sunburn. The radiation oncology RN will review specific instructions for caring for skin. Some guidelines include:

  • Clean the skin daily with warm water and a mild soap.
  • Avoid products. Avoid using any lotions, perfumes, deodorants or powders in the treatment area unless approved.Try not to use products containing alcohol and perfumes.
  • Avoid putting anything hot or cold on the treated skin. This includes heating pads and ice packs.
  • Stay out of the sun. Being outside requires a hat and clothing that protects the radiation site. After treatment, use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
  • Seek out support. There may be times when feelings such as anxiety, sadness, fear or anger seem to take control. People undergoing cancer treatment can sometimes feel overwhelmed. In order to cope, it might be helpful to talk about these feelings with a close friend, family member, oncology nurse or social worker. The staff in the Radiation Oncology treatment area want patients to feel supported and understood throughout treatment.

Visit the Cancer Center 's Support Services department web pages for more information about counseling and support groups.