Radiation therapy advice from survivors who’ve been there

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
    the session.
  4. Listen to your body: Don’t overexert yourself. Take
    it easy, and if
    you’re tired, take naps. 
  5. Address skin irritation: Some patients experience
    skin irritation
    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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.
  8. 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
    dietitian can help find ways to ensure you meet your nutritional
    at every stage of cancer treatment. You can ask your MD Anderson care team to connect you to one
    of our clinical dietitians.
  9. 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
    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.
  10. 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.
  11. Stay positive and hopeful: Like any cancer
    treatment, radiation
    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
or by calling 1-877-632-6789.