When you have radiation treatment for cancer, your body goes through changes.
About 2 weeks after your first treatment:
For weeks to months after radiation treatment, you may notice shortness of breath. You are more likely to notice this when you are active. Contact your doctor if you develop this symptom.
When you have radiation treatment, colored markings are drawn on your skin. Do not remove them. These show where to aim the radiation. If they come off, do not redraw them. Tell your doctor instead.
To take care of the treatment area:
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any breaks or openings in your skin.
You will likely feel tired after a few days. If so:
You need to eat enough protein and calories to keep your weight up.
To make eating easier:
Drink at least 8 to 12 cups of liquid each day, not including coffee or tea, or other drinks that have caffeine in them.
Do not drink alcohol. Do not eat spicy foods, acidic foods, or foods that are very hot or cold. These will bother your throat.
If pills are hard to swallow, try crushing them and mixing them with ice cream or other soft food. Ask your doctor or pharmacist before crushing your medicines. Some medicines do not work when crushed.
Watch out for these signs of edema (swelling) in your arm.
Ask your doctor or nurse about exercises you can do to keep your arm moving freely.
Try using a humidifier or vaporizer in your bedroom or main living area. Do not smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Do not chew tobacco.
Try sucking on sugar-free candy to add saliva to your mouth.
Mix one half teaspoon of salt and one quarter teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Gargle with this solution several times a day. Do not use store-bought mouthwashes or lozenges.
For a cough that does not go away:
Your doctor may check your blood counts regularly, especially if the radiation treatment area is large.
National Cancer Institute. Radiation therapy and you: support for people with cancer. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/radiation-therapy-and-you. Accessed May 7, 2014.
Perry MC. Approach to the patient with cancer. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 182.
Updated by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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