Side effects from your radiation therapy for cancer treatment will vary from person to person. Any side effect that you might experience will depend on the location and type of cancer, your overall general health, the type of radiation therapy being used and the dose that you are receiving. It’s best to talk to your team of cancer specialists about what to expect. However, if you do experience side effects from your radiation treatment - such as diarrhea, fatigue, skin changes, problems eating, hair loss or nausea, there are a few ways to lessen their severity.
Self-Care During & After Radiation Therapy
It’s important to take care of yourself during any type of cancer treatments, including radiation therapy. Of course, your cancer care team at Arizona Oncology can guide you through self-care based on your cancer treatment plan and your specific side-effects; however, a few general tips for self-care during cancer radiation treatment include:
- Rest - Fatigue (being extremely tired) is a common side effect. Make sure you get plenty of rest.
- Diet - Food many not sound enticing, or the nausea brought on by your cancer treatment could make it especially hard to eat regularly. However, it's still really important that you take in the right amount of calories so you can keep up their strength and avoid dropping to an unhealthy weight during treatment. Try to eat food that’s healthy whenever possible.
- Skin care - External radiation therapy can cause the skin to become irritated or sensitive -- much like a sunburn. Talk to your care team about the correct lotions, medicines and soaps to use in the area to minimize the discomfort.
- Keeping your cancer care team up-to-date - Make sure you’re keeping your cancer care team up-to-date on all of your medications and supplements, this includes vitamins, herbs, aromatherapy oils, and aspirin, that are you are using. You should avoid starting any supplements until you have consulted your care team. Also, if necessary, keep track of all of your symptoms and side effects to go over with your team during your appointments. Keeping a small notebook with notes while you’re at home can help jog your memory when you get to the cancer center.
Managing Common Radiation Therapy Side Effects
The National Cancer Institute provides practical tips to help you during radiation. Learn about self-care, how to feel better during cancer radiation treatment, medical problems to call your doctor about, and questions to ask your doctor on what to do:
- When You Have Loose Stools (Diarrhea)
- When You Feel Weak or Tired (Fatigue)
- About Hair Loss (Alopecia): Managing Radiation Side Effects
- When Your Mouth or Throat Hurts
- About Feeling Sick to Your Stomach and Throwing Up (Nausea and Vomiting)
- About Changes in Sexuality and Fertility in Men
- About Changes in Sexuality and Fertility in Women
- About Mild Skin Changes
- About Changes When You Urinate