Radiation - mouth and neck - discharge
When you have radiation treatment for cancer, your body goes through changes.
Two weeks after radiation treatment starts, you might notice changes in your skin. Most of these symptoms go away after your treatments have stopped.
You may also notice changes in your mouth. You may have:
Your body hair will fall out 2 to 3 weeks after radiation treatment starts, but only in the area being treated. When your hair grows back, it may be different than before.
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 care for the treatment area:
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any breaks or openings in your skin.
Keep the area that is being treated out of direct sunlight. Wear clothing that protects you from the sun, such as a hat with a broad brim and a shirt with long sleeves. Use sunscreen. Talk with your doctor or nurse about using sun block.
Rinse your mouth 5 or 6 times a day for 1 to 2 minutes each time. Use one of the following solutions when you rinse:
Do not use rinses that have alcohol in them. You may use an antibacterial rinse 2 to 4 times a day for gum disease.
To further take care of your mouth:
If you use dentures, wear them as infrequently as possible. Stop wearing your dentures if you get sores on your gums.
Ask your doctor or dentist about medicine to help with mouth dryness or pain.
You need to eat enough protein and calories to keep your weight up. Ask your doctor about liquid food supplements that can help.
Tips to make eating easier:
Drink at least 8 to 12 cups of liquid each day, not including coffee, tea, or other drinks that have caffeine in them.
If pills are hard to swallow, try crushing them and mixing them with ice cream or another soft food. Ask your doctor or pharmacist before crushing your medicines. Some medicines do not work when crushed.
You may feel tired after a few days. If you feel tired:
See your dentist often. Your doctor may check your blood counts regularly, especially if the radiation treatment area on your body 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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