Radiation Therapy -- What It Is, How It Helps

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What can I do to take care of myself during radiation?

During radiation therapy, you need to take special care of yourself. Your doctor or nurse will give you tips on how to do this. But there are some basic things that you should do, such as:

  • Get plenty of rest. You may feel more tired than normal. This fatigue (or feeling very tired) can last for 4 to 6 weeks after your treatment ends.
  • Eat healthy foods. Your doctor, nurse, or dietitian may work with you to make sure you are eating the right foods to get what your body needs. They may suggest changes to reduce side effects if your stomach or throat is in the area being treated.
  • Take care of the skin in the treatment area. Clean the skin each day with warm water and a mild soap that your nurse says is OK to use. Do not use lotions, deodorants, medicines, perfumes, makeup, powders, or other products on the treatment area unless your doctor or nurse tells you it’s OK.
  • Don’t wear tight clothes. Girdles, pantyhose, or tight collars can rub the treatment area. Wear loose-fitting, soft clothing instead. Don’t use starch.
  • Don’t rub, scrub, scratch, or use tape on the skin. Use only lukewarm water and mild soap. Clean very gently – do not rub. Also be careful not to rub off the ink marks needed for your radiation treatments. If you need to put a bandage on the treated area, ask your nurse what you should use.
  • Don’t put heat or cold on the skin. Don’t use heating pads or ice packs.
  • Protect your skin from the sun. Wear a hat or clothing to protect your skin. Ask your doctor if you should use a sunscreen. If so, use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Put sunscreen on often, even after your skin has healed. The skin in the treatment area will always burn more quickly, so you will always need extra protection from the sun.
  • Tell your doctor about all medicines you are taking. If you take any medicines, even aspirin, herbs, or vitamins, let your doctor know before you start radiation.

Last Medical Review: 11/26/2012
Last Revised: 11/26/2012