Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer or have completed one
treatment and are preparing yourself for the next, the thought of radiation therapy may be scary or overwhelming.
Although each patient’s experience is unique, it can be comforting to
get advice from others who’ve already been through radiation therapy.
We asked our Facebook community to share their best advice for
coping with radiation therapy and its side effects. Here’s what they
had to say.
Ask questions: Educate yourself about what to
expect beforehand by asking your care team as many questions as you
can before you start radiation therapy. Be sure to ask about
long-term side effects and lifestyle adjustments.
Listen to your care team: Bring a notepad and write
down your care team’s instructions. Heed their advice. If you’re
experiencing adverse side effects or have other issues, don’t be
afraid to speak up because they may have other solutions.
Add some fun to your radiation therapy sessions:
Befriend the staff or other patients in the waiting area so
you have something to look forward to before each treatment. Ask
your radiation techs to play your favorite music to get you through
Listen to your body: Don’t overexert yourself. Take
it easy, and if
you’re tired, take naps.
Address skin irritation: Some patients experience
as a result of radiation therapy. Luckily,
there are things you can use to soothe your skin, from aloe vera,
emu oil to healing lotions and even wound dressing pads. Ask your
doctor or nurse what they recommend for you.
Wear comfortable clothing: Loose, comfortable
clothing can also help with skin irritation. Try loose-fitting
cotton shirts, pants or skirts, depending on where the irritation
is. Or, if the skin around your neck is irritated, try shirts with
lower neck lines.
Seek dry mouth remedies: Dry mouth is another
common side effect of radiation therapy. Many patients try hard
candy or sugar-free gum, which includes xylitol, a chemical that
helps produce saliva. You may also want to talk to your care team
about these and other remedies, including prescription moisturizing
dry mouth sprays.
Eat well and stay hydrated: Drinking lots of water
and eating more protein can help keep your body strong during
treatment. If you’re having trouble eating, try meal replacement
drinks like Boost and Ensure. If your taste buds begin to change,
try new foods that appeal to you. Your MD
Anderson dietitian can help find ways to ensure you meet your nutritional
needs at every stage of cancer treatment. You can ask your MD Anderson care team to connect you to one
of our clinical dietitians.
Cope with stress: Cancer treatments like radiation
therapy can be
stressful. But meditation and deep breathing
exercises can help you. If you’re an MD
Anderson patient, speak with your social work counselor about
strategies to cope with your stress, or visit our Integrative Medicine Center and attend our
meditation or yoga classes or get an oncology massage.
Try to maintain some normalcy: Try to schedule your
treatments when it’s convenient for you. This way,
you can also try to do the rest of the things you need to – go to
work, pick up your kids or exercise, if you’re able.
Stay positive and hopeful: Like any cancer
therapy can be tough. But remember that
many other patients have endured radiation therapy, and you can do
it, too. So focus on your happy place and remind yourself why
you’re doing this.
Request an appointment at MD
Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.