Your skin in the treatment area may become red, irritated, sunburned, or tanned after afew weeks of therapy. It is important to notify your doctor or nurse of any skin changesat your next appointment. They can suggest measures to relieve your discomfort andpossibly minimize further irritation. The majority of skin reactions to radiation therapy goaway a few weeks after treatment is completed. In some cases, though, the treated skinwill remain slightly darker than it was before and it may continue to be more sensitive tosun exposure.
Skin in the area where you are receiving radiation therapy needs to be treated withgentle care.
During your course of radiation treatment, please follow these guidelines:
Keep the treated area dry & free from irritation. Cornstarch, gently patted on witha powder puff, will keep the skin dry.
Do not wash the treated area until your technologist tells you to. When permitted,wash the treated skin gently, using a mild soap and rinse well before patting dry.
Always use lukewarm water.
Do not remove any lines or ink marks on your skin until the technologist tells youto.
Be aware that the marks placed on your skin may stain your clothing.
Avoid harsh fabrics over the treatment area such as wool, corduroy, or starchedcloth. Lightweight cotton is recommended.
Do not wear clothing that is tight or may cause friction by rubbing over the treatedskin.
Women with breast cancer should avoid bras that rub below the breast.
Avoid irritating the treatment area by using cosmetics, perfumes, colognes, pre orafter shave products, topical medications, deodorants, creams, lotions, Vaseline-like products, or powders. Many skin products can leave a coating on the skinthat may cause an irritation and interfere with your treatment.
Do not apply any skin lotions within 2 hours of a treatment.
Do not use heating pads or hot water bottles on treated skin.
Avoid ice packs and exposure to extreme cold weather.
Men should use an electric razor when shaving if they are receiving treatment tothe face and/or neck area. Do not use aftershave.
If treated area becomes reddened or tender, tell your doctor, nurse or radiationtherapist. They will recommend something for the discomfort.
Avoid exposing the area to the sun during treatment and for at least 1 year afteryour treatment is completed.
If you expect to be in the sun for more than a few minutes, wear protectiveclothing (such as a hat with a broad brim and shirt with long sleeves) and use asunscreen. Ask your doctor or nurse about using sunscreen lotions of SPF 15 orhigher.
Do not give yourself or allow anyone else to give you any shots in the treatmentarea.
Unless necessary, do not use adhesive tape, including band aids and papertape, on the treated area.
Breast cancer patients should not use deodorant if the axilla is in the treatmentfield. Create your own non-irritating deodorant: 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cupof corn starch mixed together and applied with cotton balls.
Do not swim in salt water, lakes, pools or ponds.
Always report any discomforts or concerns to the Radiation Therapy Staff.
The Most Common Types of Skin Reactions
The most common side effects from radiation to the abdomen are skin irritation,nausea/vomiting, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
Your skin may become dry and pink after 2-3 weeks of treatment.
Use a mild soap (i.e. Ivory, Dove, Neutrogena), but do not use anything else onyour skin in the treated area.
If you need something for skin dryness, please let the nurses know.
You may experience nausea and/or vomiting from your treatment. This can begin afteryour first or second treatment.
The doctor may prescribe a premedication (e.g. Compazine, Norzine) for you totake 30 minutes before your treatment, and again 2-3 hours after your treatment.
Try eating smaller, bland meals more frequently. Let the nurses know if you arestill having trouble.
Drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
You also may experience a loss of appetite, even if you are not having nausea orvomiting. Sometimes you may need to force yourself to eat. Again, smaller, morefrequent meals may be easier.
Your weight will be checked weekly. If you are having problems eating, we may evenoffer you nutritional supplements.
It should not be surprising that you may also feel more tired, especially if you are noteating well. You will still be able to come for your treatment, but you may need morerest periods during the day.
Radiation Therapy is often used to provide pain relief from metastatic cancer boneinvolvement. You may also experience skin irritation, fatigue, and other site-specific sideeffects.
May become dry and pink after 2-3 weeks of treatment.
Use a mild soap (i.e. Ivory, Dove, Neutrogena), but do not use anything else onyour skin in the treated area.
If you need something for skin dryness, please let the nurses know.
During the treatment course, you may feel more tired.
You will still be able to come for your treatment.
You may need more rest periods during the day.
You may experience pain from the cancer in the area being treated. If so, youmay be taking a narcotic medication to relieve the pain. Let us know what youare taking and how effective it is.
Monitor your bowel movements and avoid constipation from the narcotic bywatching your diet (high-fiber). You may need a stool softener and/or laxative inaddition to diet changes.
Avoid using a heating pad, hot soaks, etc. to the treated area. You may usetepid/warm water in the area.
You should also be aware of minimizing stress involved on the bone, such as weight-bearing and pulling-pushing/carrying heavy objects. You may need to use a cane,walker, crutches, or wheelchair.
Side Effects from Radiation Therapy to the Brain
You may experience several side effects from radiation to the brain. The most commonare hair loss, skin irritation, and fatigue.
Hair Loss
Any hair loss you experience will only be in the treatment area (i.e. partial vs. whole
brain). It can begin 2-3 weeks after treatment begins. Your hair may only thin out or may
be lost completely. It is usually temporary, but can be permanent (depending on theamount of radiation received).
If considering a wig, see a wig stylist before radiation treatment begins so thatthe stylist can match a wig to your natural hair color and texture.
Ask your doctor for a prescription for a wig, as some insurance companies coverthis cost.
Get a short, stylish haircut before beginning radiation in order to prepare yourselffor the change in your appearance.
Some patients feel more in control if they shave their head completely, ratherthan dealing with the hair falling out.
Once radiation treatments begin, use a mild shampoo, pat the hair dry and combthe hair carefully, without tugging.
Only use a hairdryer if necessary and keep it on a low heat setting.
Avoid hair dyes, rollers, curling irons or perms.
Sleep on a satin pillowcase to avoid friction between hair and scalp.
You may be asked to undergo a treatment planning CT scan prior to your simulation.
This helps determine how best to arrange the treatment specially chosen for yoursituation.
Once you get started with your treatment, your therapist may place a very smallpermanent tattoo (.) on your skin. This is used in your daily set up and also for yoursafety, should you ever need radiotherapy in the future-- A radiation oncologist candetermine a previously irradiated area by identifying your tattoos.
After your planning session you will be given an appointment for your first treatment.
There may be some slight variation in the technique and schedules used by different
radiation oncologists, however the general scheme is as follows:
Radiotherapy is usually given every day, 5 days/week for approximately 6-7 weeks.
During the first 4 1 /2 to 5 weeks, the radiation will be directed to your entire breast orchest wall and sometimes lymph glands. During the last week or so, you will receive anelectron "boost" to your lumpectomy or mastectomy scar. Electrons are less penetratingthan X-rays and will deliver the dose of radiation directly to the area where the originaltumor was. The same daily dose will be given during the boost--just to a smaller area.
This allows a higher dose to the area at highest risk of recurrence-sparing more of thenormal tissue.
You will be given a specific time to come in each day that will be fairly consistent duringthose 6 or so weeks. We will try our best to accommodate our patients with tightschedules or time restrictions.
The first day of your treatment will take a little longer because all fields will be filmed toconfirm proper positioning and block placement. Once your radiation oncologist reviewsyour films and gives the go-ahead, you will receive your first treatment.
The treatment only takes a couple of minutes depending on the number of fields. Youwill not feel anything. You will need to remain as still as possible during your treatment.
You will see your Radiation Oncologist on a weekly basis. The purpose of the visit is toevaluate the area being treated for any radiation reaction as well as to assess how youare feeling. The oncologist will review your chart thoroughly as well as your port films(the films that are taken weekly to ensure proper set up). These films do not tell usanything about your cancer-they are for position verification only.
Your oncologist will discuss the possible acute (early) and chronic (late) effects of
radiotherapy thoroughly with you when obtaining your consent for treatment and will be
happy to address any special concerns that you may have. Possible treatment related
side-effects include but are not limited to the following:
Beginning about the third week of radiotherapy, you may begin to notice some redness
of your breast/chest wall (like mild sunburn). You may experience itching and dry scaly
skin in the treatment area-especially around the nipple. Your doctor will prescribe
specific skin care products to help alleviate these effects. (See below)
It is possible to experience some blistering of the skin, especially if you have largebreasts. Your doctor will prescribe treatment for this as well. It is important to keep thisarea clean-especially if there are any skin breaks-to reduce the possibility of infection.
Eventually, the redness will turn darker (hyperpigmentation), just like a suntan. Thisarea may remain discolored for several months.
Some patients experience fatigue during their treatment. This may be due to disease orthe treatment itself. It may also result from low blood counts, lack of sleep, pain andpoor appetitive. To help combat fatigue, continue a healthy exercise and diet regimen. Ahigh protein, low fat diet with abundant fruits/vegetables helps to boost energy levels.
Sometimes light exercise such as light walking may help combat fatigue.
Some women experience mild intermittent discomfort in the breast or chest wall. This isgenerally short-lived and is related to the healing surgical wound.
These side effects may occur months to years after therapy.
You may notice a change in the size, shape or consistency of your breast. Due to bothsurgical changes and fibrosis (scarring) from radiation, it is possible for the breast toshrink in size just a bit. There also may be some retraction-or pulling of the skin wherethe lumpectomy scar is. Generally this is fairly subtle.
The skin and soft tissue may become thicker and firmer from radiation-this is calledfibrosis. You may notice a slight discoloration of the skin (hyperpigmentation) and or tinyred blood vessels near the skin surface (telangiectasias).
A portion of your lung may be in the treatment field-the amount depends on the specificareas treated. If just the breast is receiving treatment, the volume of lung tissue will bevery small. If the lymph node-bearing areas are being treated, the volume may behigher. This should not cause any problems with your breathing. If you have underlyinglung disease, are a heavy smoker, or have had chemotherapy that is known to beespecially toxic to lung tissue, you are at higher risk for potential lung damage.
If you have a left breast cancer, there is the possibility of a small area of your heartbeing included in the treatment volume. We make aggressive attempts to eliminate asmuch of your heart from the treatment field as possible. Radiation may accelerate thedevelopment of coronary artery disease but this effect takes many years to develop. Wedo protect most if not all of the heart from the radiation using specialized techniques.
A portion of your ribs may be included in the treatment field. This may place you atslightly higher risk of rib fracture in the future.
If you have had a mastectomy or axillary node dissection, you have a slight risk ofdeveloping arm swelling (lymphedema). This can occur because lymph glands havebeen removed making it difficult for lymphatic fluid to drain from your arm. This happensIn less than 18% of patients and can range from mild swelling that is barely noticed to alarge amount of swelling requiring more aggressive treatment. The risk of significantarm edema is 1-2%. Radiotherapy may increase this a small amount, however weusually do not treat previously dissected axillae unless there is still cancer in that area.
Moisturizers - During your weekly doctor visits, your oncologist may give you samples or
a prescription for creams or ointments that are made specifically for patients to use
during radiotherapy. Please do not use any skin care products from home in the
treatment area unless you ask your doctor. Some lotions, and especially deodorants,
may have perfumes, alcohols, and even metallic agents that may make your skin
reaction worse.
Deodorant - You may use baby cornstarch under your arm to help absorb perspiration.
Skin Moisturizers - Some patients like to use aloe. There is no proven clinical benefit
to using aloe but it is soothing. I recommend aloe direct from the plant, however. Many
of the "pure aloe" gels sold in drug stores contain alcohol, which is very drying to the
Shaving - If you have had an axillary node dissection and if you must shave under your
arm, please do so with an electric razor to avoid skin nicks. Breaks in the skin may
become infected because of the disturbance of your lymphatic tissue. For the same
reason, if you garden-be sure and wear protective gloves and be very careful with
manicures. Make sure that manicure tools are clean and that you are very gentle toavoid breaks in the cuticle.
Sun Exposure - As a general rule of thumb, you should always wear sunscreen to
avoid sun damage and help prevent skin cancer. It is especially important for you to
protect the area receiving radiation from sun exposure. You may use sunscreen or keep
the area covered with clothing. We want to keep your skin reaction to a minimum and
avoiding sun exposure will help.
BathinglShowering - You may bathe or shower as usual. However, try to retain any
skin marks your therapist has placed on your skin. Water can flow over the treatment
area, but it is a good idea to let soap skip this area. If you must cleanse the area more
thoroughly, I recommend you use Dove soap or Basis-as these soaps are gentle, free of
perfumes and are less drying than other soaps.
Undergarments/Clothing - It may be more comfortable for you to not wear a bra during
your treatment, as your skin will be irritated. If you have large breasts or feel more
comfortable wearing a bra, I suggest you purchase a white cotton exercise bra that is
one size too big (so not too tight). These bras have a wide cotton-covered elastic band
that is more comfortable and not as abrasive as regular bras. Also, loose fitting cotton
shirts will help with ventilation.
You will see your radiation oncologist four weeks or so after completing your course of
radiotherapy so that he or she can check to see that you are healing properly. You will
be scheduled for a baseline mammogram approximately 6 months from completing your
treatment. At this point the architectural changes caused by the surgery/radiotherapy
have stabilized. This is why we call it a baseline exam. The radiologist will need this for
comparison of subsequent mammograms. You will also continue to follow up with your
medical oncologist and or surgeon as scheduled by their offices.
We will see you every four months for the first 3 years, then every 6 months for the next2 years and yearly thereafter. Breast cancer is most likely to recur in the first 2-3 yearsaftertherapy. This is the reason for such close surveillance early on.
Mammograms will be obtained yearly unless the radiologist finds reason to recommendcloser intervals.
May become dry and pink after 2-3 weeks of treatment.
Use a mild soap (e.g. Ivory, Dove, Neutrogena), but do not use anything else onyour skin in the treated area.
If you need something for skin dryness, please let the nurses know.
You may experience a feeling of indigestion (lump in chest) and/or difficultyswallowing after 2-3 weeks of treatment.
Try an antacid (e.g. Maalox, Mylanta) before meals to make it more comfortableto eat.
Softer and “wet” foods will be easier for you to eat.
Let the nurses know if you are having trouble, they will give you more detailedinformation.
You may experience several side effects from radiation to the head and neck area. Thespecific effects depend upon what part is actually being treated. Mouth care andnutrition are very important at this time. You may be asked to see a dentist beforebeginning your treatment. As for nutrition, we can give you more detailed informationand may even offer you nutritional supplements. Your weight will be checked weekly.
May become dry and pink after 2-3 weeks of treatment.
Use a mild soap (e.g. Ivory, Dove, Neutrogena), but do not use anything else onyour skin in the treated area, including shaving products.
If you need something for skin dryness, please let the nurses know.
Wear a hat and a cotton shirt with a collar when outside for long periods of timeto protect your skin from the sun, wind and cold.
Hair Loss
Any hair loss you experience from radiation will only be in the treatment area. Itcan start 2-3 weeks after treatment begins.
It may be temporary, but it can be permanent (depending on the amount ofradiation you receive). Regrowth will begin several weeks after treatment ends.
If considering a wig, see a wig stylist before radiation treatment begins so thatthe stylist can match a wig to your natural hair color and texture.
Ask your doctor for a prescription for a wig, as some insurance companies willcover this cost.
Get a short, stylish haircut prior to beginning radiation in order to prepare yourselffor the change in your appearance.
Some patients feel more in control if they shave their head completely, ratherthan dealing with the hair falling out.
Once radiation treatments begin, use a mild shampoo, pat the hair dry and combthe hair carefully, without tugging.
Only use a hairdryer if necessary and keep it on a low heat setting.
Avoid hair dyes, rollers, curling irons or perms.
Sleep on a satin pillowcase to avoid friction between hair and scalp.
Mouth and/or Throat
May become dry after 2-3 weeks of treatment, especially if the salivary glandsare in the treated area.
The dryness may be temporary or permanent.
It may take several weeks or months to resolve.
Sip and drink fluids often during the day. Carry water with you at all times. Also,keep water by your bedside for middle of the night sips.
Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy.
Artificial saliva is available, if needed.
If you have any problems with thick saliva, you can try gargling with half-strengthhydrogen peroxide and water, in addition to the above.
Carbonated water is also useful for thick saliva.
Mouth sores or sore throat may develop after 2-3 weeks of treatment. If this is aproblem, let us know.
You may also find you are not eating as well at this time. Soft and “wet” foods willbe easiest; room temperature and cold foods may also be better tolerated. Letthe nurses know if you are having trouble; we will give you more detailedinformation.
Difficulty swallowing because of dryness, sore throat, and/or any swelling fromthe treatment. You may need to alter your diet at this time; again, softer and “wet”foods will be easier.
If the larynx is in the treatment area, your voice may become hoarse. This istemporary and will go away a few weeks after your treatment ends.
Dry mouth (Xerostomia)
This chronic dry-mouth condition is caused by damage from radiation therapy to the
salivary glands. It can greatly impair a patient’s ability to speak, chew, swallow and
Sweet or tart foods or beverages, such as lemonade, might help the mouth toproduce saliva. (Avoid these, however, when experiencing a sore mouth orthroat.) Suck on sugar-free, hard candy or popsicles or chew sugar-free gum in an effortto produce more saliva.
Eat soft and pureed foods that are easier to swallow.
Eat foods with sauces, gravies and salad dressings to make them moist andeasier to swallow.
Take a sip of water every few minutes to make swallowing and talking easier.
If the dry mouth problem is severe, ask your physician or dentist about productsthat coat and protect the mouth and throat.
Taste Changes
Your taste changes may be temporary and may take several weeks to resolve or they
may be permanent.
You may also experience a bitter or metallic taste.
You may need to “force” yourself to eat, experimenting with various foods to seewhat you can tolerate.
Try using small amounts of flavorful seasonings and/or marinades.
Try tart foods such as oranges or lemons that may have more taste.
Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness, weariness, weakness, exhaustion or a lack of energy to
carry on. Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of radiation therapy. Fatigue is
typically strongest 2-4 hours after treatment. The feeling of fatigue should wear off
several weeks after the completion of radiation therapy.
Prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them.
Use convenience foods that are ready to eat.
Accept offers of help from friends and relatives.
Drink three quarts of fluid each day to avoid the build-up of cellular wasteproducts.
Increase rest. Get more sleep at night and take naps during the day.
Try to eat even when you are tired. Sometimes a little food will increase energy.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation (such as x-rays) to kill cancer cells. Thesetreatments may be given externally in a procedure that is much like having a diagnosticx-ray. This is called external beam radiation therapy. Radiation therapy also may begiven by placing radioactive materials near the tumor. This is called brachytherapy. Amultidisciplinary team, consisting of a nurse, physicist, radiation oncologist and radiationtherapist, is responsible for implementing the treatment plan developed by yourradiation oncologist.
External Beam Radiation
This is the more familiar type of radiation therapy in which the high energy x-rays are
delivered from a source outside of the body. In some situations, both brachytherapy and
external beam radiation therapy are given. External beam radiation therapy requires 4
or 5 weeks of 5-days-a-week treatment. The actual treatment takes less than a half-
How much of the pelvis needs to be exposed to radiation therapy depends on the extent
of the disease. In cases where only the upper third of the vagina, the vaginal cuff, needs
to be treated, a radioactive application is inserted through the vagina. This internal
application of radiation therapy is called brachytherapy.
4 to 6 weeks after the hysterectomy, the surgeon or radiation oncologist inserts aspecial applicator into the woman's vagina and pellets of radioactive material areinserted into the applicator. Several treatments may be necessary. With vaginalbrachytherapy, there is little radiation effect on nearby structures, such as the bladder orrectum.
Commonly Experienced Short-Term Side Effects of Radiation to the Pelvis
Changes in bowel habits: frequent soft bowel movements, gas pains, abdominalcramping Changes in urination: frequency, urgency, or burning Women: vaginal changes, vaginal discharge Skin changes in the treatment area - dryness or redness Temporary hair loss in the area being treated with radiation Any of these symptoms may occur during radiation therapy and can persist for several
weeks following completion of treatment. Severity of side effects varies from patient to
patient. Report all symptoms of discomfort and concern to your nurse or radiation
oncologist as soon as possible. Do not institute any changes without their knowledge.
During Radiation Therapy We Encourage You to:
Wear loose fitting, soft cotton clothing next to the skin in the area that is beingtreated.
Use only those skin care products recommended. Avoid shaving, using talcumpowder, deodorants or perfumes in the area that is being treated with radiation.
Match your activity level to your energy level.
Skin Care
On the first day of your treatment planning, you will have skin marks (made with a
colored dye) placed on the pelvis area to be treated. As the days of treatments
progress, the radiation therapists may place some tiny tattoos that will replace the skin
marks. Do not attempt to refresh or wash these marks off your skin. Using warm water,
you may shower or bathe as usual but avoid vigorous scrubbing in the treatment area.
Gentle soap (e.g. Ivory, Dove, Neutrogena) and water running over the treated skin will
usually cause no harm; in fact, keeping this area clean is beneficial. It is also important
to keep the perineum clean. This is the region between the thighs and the anus. Gently
and thoroughly cleansing this area after urination with a front to back motion will help
you feel fresh.
To wash the area being treated, use a small amount of soap on your hand andgently wash. Rinse well and gently pat dry with a soft towel.
Do not apply any powders, creams, lotions or deodorants to the skin of thetreatment area while undergoing therapy except as directed by the health careteam.
Dry cornstarch may be applied during the day in the creases of the groin area.
This helps to keep the area friction free and reduce irritation and itching. Do notapply cornstarch before your treatment.
Avoid additional heat sources such as sunbathing, heating pads, hot waterbottles, hot tubs and heat producing ointments.
Skin reactions may become more severe if you are receiving chemotherapy andradiation at the same time.
Skin changes are more likely to occur in areas with skin folds.
Sensitive treatment areas respond well to pure cotton underclothing and theavoidance of tight, restrictive clothing such as jeans, slacks, and pantyhose.
The area being treated and the amount of radiation being given will determine the kind
of skin changes, if any, you may experience. Skin changes vary from no changes to a
dry, pink color, to a bronzed appearance. In the case of an obese abdomen, be sure to
keep skin areas clean under folds of skin.
The bladder may lie in the treatment field and irritation of the lining may occur, resulting
in increasingly frequent urination (especially at night) or discomfort with urination.
Drinking sufficient fluids can minimize this irritation. Feel free to drink Kool Aid, soups
and juices. Cranberry juice may help.
Please inform your health care team of any symptoms you may develop with urinating,
such as increased frequency, burning or cloudy urine.
The technologists may ask you to come for treatment with a full bladder. When the
bladder is full, it helps push the small bowel out of the irradiated field. The goal is to
have a noticeably full bladder at the time of treatment, but not significant discomfort.
This can usually be accomplished by urinating two hours before treatment and drinking
a tall glass of water. Everyone’s system is different, however, and you may need to
make adjustments. It is not necessary to have a full bladder for all treatments. If you are
significantly uncomfortable with a full bladder shortly before treatment, you may void.
This will not compromise the effectiveness of having a full bladder during many or most
of the treatments.
Often, after receiving between 8 to 12 treatments, you may develop a tendency toward
increased bowel activity and increased gas production. Each person’s bowel response
to radiation differs, and it is difficult to predict the amount of diarrhea, if any, you may
experience. You will usually have some warning such as gas and/or cramping. Changes
in the diet may be necessary (low-residue, low-fat). Please alert the health care team if
loose stools or diarrhea occur. Immodium may be used (available over the counter).
The rectal area may become irritated as a result of the radiation and/or diarrhea. Please
inform us of any symptoms you may be having, such as rectal discomfort, hemorrhoid
problems, skin irritation, etc. Prescription creams may be necessary to reduce
rectal/anal irritation.
Pelvis (Women)
Radiation therapy to the female pelvis can result in irritation of the vaginal tissues and
can decrease mucous production. The result can be eventual dryness and narrowing of
the vaginal canal. It is important to keep the vaginal canal from narrowing for future
examinations and for your comfort. Three weeks after radiation therapy, the vaginal
area should be routinely stretched 2-3 times per week by sexual intercourse and/or use
of a vaginal dilator. If you are not sexually active, use a vaginal dilator. Additional
lubrication such as K-Y jelly or Surgilube (do not use petroleum products such as
Vaseline) may promote comfort. Gentle douching once daily with a mild vinegar solution
(2 tablespoons white vinegar to 1 quart warm water) may be indicated. Warm sitz baths
using the same mild vinegar solution can be soothing to inflamed tissues, especially to
external tissues such as the rectum and vaginal opening.
As a result of the treatment to the pelvis, you may temporarily lose your pubic hair,which may or may not completely regrow. Menstruation usually ceases completely bythe end of therapy or within several months after treatment because the ovaries arevery sensitive to the effects of radiation. Do not rely on radiation therapy as a means ofbirth control.
As your treatments progress, you may experience fatigue. You may require more sleep
at night or need a nap after your treatment.
You must maintain an adequate and nutritious diet. Dieting with substantial weight loss
is discouraged at this time. In order for normal cells to recuperate from the daily
treatment, they require appropriate nutrients each day. You will be weighed regularly
during radiation therapy to help insure that you are eating adequately.
Report these Symptoms to your Health Care Team
After Radiation Therapy Care
Continue with your skin care while significant skin reaction remains.
Continue to use any prescribed topical medications or a moisturizer containingno perfumes or alcohol.
Diarrhea may continue for some time after completion of the radiation. Continueusing any anti-diarrhea medication until bowel action normalizes.
Contact your health care team with any concerns or any questions.
As part of your radiation therapy treatment, your physician may prescribe drugs calledsteroids such as Prednisone or Decadron (generic name is Dexamethasone). Thesedrugs help decrease swelling in body tissues. Steroids may cause side effects, whichvary from person to person. You will not experience all of them. The side effects aretemporary and will gradually decrease after you stop the medication. Make sure to takethis medication exactly as your doctor prescribes. Also ask your nurse for a medicationhandout about the type of steroid you will be taking.
Self-Care Measures:
1. Since steroids may irritate the lining of your stomach, take steroids with milk or
2. Avoid substances that will further irritate your stomach, such as: Highly spiced foods flavored with pepper, chili powder, curry, or cloves.
Acidic foods such as citrus fruits and juices. These include oranges, grapefruits,lemons, limes, and tomatoes.
Carbonated beverages, alcoholic beverages, and caffeine in coffee. These arevery irritating and may cause discomfort.
Drugs containing aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs should not be takenwhile you are on steroids, unless cleared by your physician, in advance.
3. Steroids may cause you to retain salt and fluids so that your weight increases. Weightgain caused by fluid retention will gradually decrease when you stop taking themedication. In the meantime, to minimize fluid retention, follow a low salt diet, if clearedby your physician.
Do not add salt when cooking or eating.
Avoid salty foods such as pork, ham, bacon, tomato juice, salted nuts, bouillon,canned soups, cheese, salted crackers, snack foods, seasoned salt, soy orWorcestershire sauce, catsup, canned meats or fish, corned beef, sausage,peanut butter, and foods labeled as having high sodium content.
4. If you notice increased swelling of your hands, feet, legs or face notify your physician5. Steroids may cause you to lose potassium. If your physician tells you that yourpotassium is low, eat foods high in potassium such as: bananas, apricot or peachnectar, cantaloupe, dates, raisins, baked potatoes, salt-water fish, halibut, milk andchicken.
6. Steroids can cause an increase in appetite so don't be surprised if you gain weight.
To safely minimize weight gain: Try to maintain a nutritious well-balanced diet while avoiding simple sugars suchas cakes, pies and candy. Eat foods containing natural sugar such as fresh fruitsand vegetables.
Do not try crash diets or diet pills. After your treatments are finished, you can talkwith your physician about weight-loss.
7. You may notice emotional changes such as a feeling of "well-being," mood swings,depression, anxiety or even a great increase in energy with difficulty sleeping. Thesechanges may be more noticeable while your medication dose is being increased ordecreased. Emotional changes caused by the steroids should stop when you have beenoff steroids for several days.
8. Steroids can cause changes in your appearance. Your face may look swollen, yourabdomen may get larger and you may develop acne. Although these changes aretemporary, they can be emotionally upsetting. Talk with your health care team, family orfriends if you need help dealing with your feelings.
9. Steroids may change the way your body uses sugars and other carbohydrates.
Some people temporarily develop diabetes while on steroids. Avoid simplesugars like cakes, candy, etc. and include more complex carbohydrates such asfresh vegetables, rice, and other whole grains in your diet. If you develop greatlyincreased thirst, increased urination and fatigue, notify your physician.
If you are diabetic, you might need to change your dose of insulin or pills while onsteroids. Your physician will advise you if such a change is necessary.
10. Steroids may increase your chance of infection and delay healing of injuries.
This happens mainly with high-dose or long-term treatment.
Tell your doctor if you notice signs of infection (inflammation, redness, sorenessor a temperature) or if cuts take longer than usual to heal.
It is important to maintain good personal hygiene to prevent infection.
11. Steroids may also interfere with your sleep patterns.
Steroids must be discontinued gradually, over days or weeks. Your physician will
explain how to do this when you no longer require the medication.
Consult your health care team if you develop

Digestive problems such as: heartburn, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting,bloody or dark ’tarry’ stools.
Increased thirst, urination and fatigue.
Increased swelling of your feet, legs, hands or face.
Things to remember about steroid tablets
Keep the tablets in a safe place where children cannot reach them, as steroidscould harm them.
If your doctor decides to stop the treatment, return any remaining tablets to thepharmacist. Do not flush them down the toilet or throw them away.
If you are sick just after taking the tablet tell your doctor, as you may need to takeanother one.
If you forget to take your tablet, do not take a double dose. Let your doctor ornurse know.
Decadron (also known by its generic name - dexamethasone) requires gradual taper todiscontinue its use. It is important not to stop taking Decadron suddenly. The followingis a schedule to taper Decadron. As there are many changes in daily dosage, we urgeyou to write out each day’s dosage on a calendar.
For 2 mg dosages, 4 mg pills may be cut in half with a sharp knife, if needed.
Additional instructions:
Continue antacid medication while taking Decadron.
Report any increasing headaches, abdominal pain, insomnia (difficulty sleeping)or worsening neurologic symptoms while taking Decadron.
Report any significant new abdominal pain or stools that become dark or tarrywhile taking Decadron.
Report any fevers promptly (temperatures orally above 100.5 F).
If you are a diabetic, special precautions may be necessary to monitor or controlyour blood sugar.
What do I do for a missed dose? If you take the drug once a day, take it as soon as
you remember that day. If you do not remember until the next day, skip the missed dose
and do not double up. If you take the drug twice or more daily, take the missed dose as
soon as you remember that day. If you don't remember until the next morning, then
double just that dose. If you are on alternate day treatment, take the dose whenever you
remember and adjust your schedule to every other day afterwards.
Are there interactions with food or beverages? There are no known interactions with
any foods or beverages. However, dexamethasone may cause retention of sodium
(salt), so keep your sodium intake to a minimum. The drug may also result in excess
urine secretion of potassium, so foods high in potassium are recommended. See the
diet section for details. There are no known interactions with alcohol.
Congratulations! You have finished your radiation therapy! Radiation treatment-related side effects will gradually begin to improve at the conclusionof therapy. This process takes several weeks and requires a gradual transition.
If you have experienced radiation-related skin irritation, continue to use mild deodorant-free soap for bathing. If you have been using an ointment or cream, continue to usethese same products until healing is completed. Skin irritation will gradually improve, butthis may take several weeks.
The skin surface that has received radiation will be more sun sensitive. We recommendthat you apply a sunblock to the skin surface if it is uncovered. You should use a PABA-free product with SPF 15 or greater.
If you have nausea and/or vomiting because of the radiation to the abdominal area, youcan expect gradual improvement in the next several weeks. Diarrhea resulting from theradiation will also take several weeks to resolve. Continue to use your antidiarrheamedication on an “as-needed” basis.
Even though your radiation treatments are completed, you will need to maintain anadequate nutritional intake to optimize healing. If you have been using nutritionalsupplements, you should continue them until you are able to eat your usual diet again. Ifyou have a sore throat or dry mouth, you will probably need to continue any medicationsyou are currently using.
The fatigue that is commonly experienced during radiation should gradually improveover the next several weeks. You may need to rest periodically during the day if thefatigue is severe, but most people are able to continue their usual routine withoutdifficulty.
A few patients need help managing pain if it continues after radiation therapy. Do notuse a heating pad or warm compress to relieve pain in any area treated with radiation.
Instead, talk to your doctor and describe the location and type of pain in as much detailas possible (cramping, aching, etc.). Try relaxation exercises to reduce your fear andanxiety since negative emotions can contribute to your discomfort.
You will see gradual progress over the next several weeks. Remember that just as ittook several weeks for side effects to develop, it will also take several weeks for them toresolve. Your doctor will want to see you for a follow-up visit in about 4-6 weeks. Youshould schedule an appointment at the time of your last treatment.



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