- Understanding Radiation Therapy: A Guide for Patients and Families
- What is radiation therapy? When is it used?
- How does radiation therapy work?
- Do the benefits outweigh the risks and side effects?
- How much does radiation treatment cost?
- Who gives radiation treatments?
- Informed consent
- How is radiation therapy given?
- External radiation therapy
- Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy)
- Systemic radiation therapy
- Preventing and managing side effects
- Skin problems
- Hair loss
- Blood count changes
- Eating problems
- How will I feel emotionally?
- Will side effects limit my activity?
- Are there long-term side effects I should be concerned about?
- Managing side effects of treatment to certain parts of the body
- Radiation therapy to the head and neck
- Radiation therapy to the brain
- Radiation therapy to the breast and chest
- Radiation therapy to the stomach and abdomen
- Radiation therapy to the pelvis
- Follow-up care
- To learn more
Radiation therapy to the stomach and abdomen
If you are having radiation treatment to the stomach or some part of the abdomen (belly), you may have vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea. Your doctor can give you medicines to help relieve these problems. Check with your doctor or nurse about any home remedies or over-the-counter drugs you are thinking about using.
Some people say they feel queasy for a few hours right after radiation therapy. If you have this problem, do not eat for a couple hours before your treatment. You may be able to handle the treatment better on an empty stomach. After treatment, you may want to wait 1 to 2 hours before eating. If the problem persists, ask your doctor about medicines to prevent and treat nausea. Be sure to take the medicine as prescribed.
If you notice nausea before your treatment, try eating a bland snack, like toast or crackers, and try to relax as much as possible. Here are some tips to help an upset stomach:
- Stick to any special diet your doctor or dietitian gives you.
- Eat small meals.
- Eat often and try to eat and drink slowly.
- Avoid foods that are fried, spicy, sweet, or high in fat.
- Drink cool liquids between meals.
- Eat foods that don’t have strong smells and can be served cool or at room temperature.
- For a severe upset stomach, try a clear liquid diet (broth and juices) or bland foods that are easy to digest, such as dry toast and gelatin.
- Learn deep-breathing and relaxation techniques, and try them when you feel nauseated.
Please call us or visit our Web site for more information on how to manage nausea and vomiting.
How to handle diarrhea
Diarrhea most often begins a few weeks after starting radiation therapy. Your doctor may prescribe medicine or give you special instructions to help with the problem. Diet changes may also be recommended, such as:
- Try a clear liquid diet (water, weak tea, apple juice, peach nectar, clear broth, popsicles, and plain gelatin) as soon as diarrhea starts or when you feel like it’s going to start.
- Don’t eat foods that are high in fiber or can cause gas or cramps, such as raw fruits and vegetables, coffee, beans, cabbage, whole-grain breads and cereals, sweets, and spicy foods.
- Eat frequent, small meals.
- Do not drink milk or eat milk products if they irritate your bowels.
- When the diarrhea starts to improve, try eating small amounts of low-fiber foods, such as rice, bananas, applesauce, yogurt, mashed potatoes, low-fat cottage cheese, and dry toast.
- Be sure you take in enough potassium (it can be found in bananas, potatoes, beans, peaches, and many other foods). This is an important mineral you may lose through diarrhea.
Diet planning is an important part of radiation treatment of the stomach and abdomen. Keep in mind these problems will get better when treatment is over. In the meantime, try to pack the highest possible food value into even small meals so you get enough protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals.
Last Medical Review: 01/24/2013
Last Revised: 01/24/2013