Your Role On Your Radiation Therapy Team
Your radiation therapy care team will work together to care for you. Youre a part of that team, and your role includes:
- Getting to your appointments on time.
- Asking questions and talking about your concerns.
- Telling someone on your care team when you have symptoms related to your treatment.
- Telling someone on your care team if youre in pain.
- Caring for yourself at home by:
- Quitting smoking if you smoke. If you want to quit, call our Tobacco Treatment Program at .
- Caring for your skin based on your care teams instructions
- Drinking liquids based on your care teams instructions.
- Eating the foods your care team suggests.
- Staying around the same weight.
Skin And Hair Reactions
Your skin and hair in the treatment area will change during your radiation therapy. This is normal.
- Your skin may turn pink, red, tanned, or look like it has sunburn. The skin in the folds under your arm and breast, over your collar bone, and in other parts of the treatment area that have been in the sun may blister and peel.
- Your skin may become very sensitive and itchy.
- You may get a rash, especially in any area where your skin has been in the sun. Tell a member of your radiation therapy team if you get a rash at any time during your radiation therapy. Rashes are sometimes a sign of an infection.
- You may lose some or all of your hair under your arm on the treated side. It usually grows back in 2 to 4 months after you finish radiation therapy.
If your skin becomes open, wet, and oozing, contact your radiation team. They may prescribe a cream called Silvadene® . Your radiation oncologist may also stop your radiation therapy until your skin heals, although this is rarely needed.
Skin reactions from radiation therapy are usually strongest 1 or 2 weeks after you finish radiation therapy and then start to heal. It often takes 3 to 4 weeks for skin reactions to heal. If you have any questions or concerns, dont hesitate to contact your radiation oncologist or nurse.
Skin care guidelines
Follow these guidelines care for your skin during treatment. Keep following them until your skin gets better. These guidelines refer only to the skin in the treatment area.
The Problem Here Is The
The problem here is the attitude of the RO. After she evaluated me she sent me to the PS to get the implant. I did. But I told the PS to stop the final phase of reconstruction to avoid damage on the implant. I requested an appointment with the RO because I will be leaving the center soon. I want to change the place because I cannot afford it. Tomorrow I will be there to see other options . Anyway I dont think I will die soon if I skip one more month of rad.
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During Your Radiation Treatments
Your radiation therapists will bring you to the treatment room and help you lie on the treatment table . Youll be positioned exactly how you were during your simulation and set-up procedure. Your radiation therapists will do everything they can to make sure youre comfortable. Then, theyll leave the room, close the door, and start your treatment.
Figure 2. An example of a radiation treatment machine
Breathe normally during your treatment, but dont move. You wont see or feel the radiation, but you may hear the machine as it moves around you and is turned on and off. Your radiation therapists will be able to see you on a monitor and talk with you through an intercom during your whole treatment. Tell them if youre uncomfortable or need help.
Youll be in the treatment room for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your treatment plan. Most of this time will be spent putting you in the correct position. The actual treatment only takes a few minutes.
Your radiation treatment wont make you or your clothes radioactive. Its safe for you to be around other people.
Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy To Your Breast Or Chest Wall
You may have side effects from radiation therapy. The type and how strong they are depends on many things. These include the dose of radiation, the number of treatments, and your overall health. The side effects may be worse if youre also getting chemotherapy.
You may start to notice side effects about 2 weeks after you start radiation therapy. They may get worse during your radiation therapy, but theyll slowly get better over 6 to 8 weeks after your last treatment. Some side effects may take longer to go away. Follow the guidelines in this section to help manage your side effects during and after your radiation therapy.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
Radiation burn or radiation dermatitis is a very common radiation therapy side effect. Here are some questions to help you prepare for your treatment and its effect on your skin:
- How does radiation therapy for my cancer affect my skin?
- What are radiation dermatitis symptoms and when do they occur?
- Is there anything I can do to prevent radiation burn?
- Are there soaps, lotions and creams I can use, or should avoid?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Radiation therapy is a common and effective cancer treatment. Unfortunately, this effective treatment can come with side effects, including radiation burn or radiation dermatitis. You can develop radiation burn or radiation dermatitis if youre being treated for head and neck cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer or other cancers that are on or close to your skin. Radiation burn symptoms can range from mild irritation to more serious symptoms such as infections and open sores. As you prepare for radiation treatment, ask your healthcare provider how treatment might affect your skin. They will tell you what to expect, and as important, what they will do to help if you develop radiation burn.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/29/2021.
What Emotional Responses Might I Expect
You may or may not experience anxiety or fear when you begin your treatment. Most people tell us that their concerns lessen as they adapt to the new environment and treatment.
Please speak to the staff if you feel that you need either emotional or practical support. There is a social worker on staff in the Radiation Oncology department. This may be a time when you think again about support groups or one-to-one consultation for the feelings that arise or to support your coping. For information about support services, please call the Breast Care Center at 353-7070.
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About External Beam Radiation Therapy
With external beam radiation therapy, a treatment machine will aim a beam of radiation directly to the tumor from outside your body. The radiation will pass through your body and destroy the cancer cells in its path. You wont see or feel it.
You may be having external beam radiation therapy to 1 or more of the following areas:
- The lymph nodes near your collarbone
- The lymph nodes under your arm
- The lymph nodes near your sternum
Your radiation oncologist and nurse will talk with you about your treatment plan.
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Vitamins And Dietary Supplements
Its OK to take a multivitamin during your radiation therapy. Do not take more than the recommended daily allowance of any vitamin or mineral.
Dont take any other dietary supplements without talking with a member of your care team. Vitamins, minerals, and herbal or botanical supplements are examples of dietary supplements.
Radiation For Breast Cancer
Radiation therapy is treatment with high-energy rays that destroy cancer cells. Some women with breast cancer will need radiation, in addition to other treatments. Radiation therapy is used in several situations:
- After breast-conserving surgery , to help lower the chance that the cancer will come back in the same breast or nearby lymph nodes.
- After a mastectomy, especially if the cancer was larger than 5 cm , if cancer is found in many lymph nodes, or if certain surgical margins have cancer such as the skin or muscle.
- If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones or brain.
The main types of radiation therapy that can be used to treat breast cancer are external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy.
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How Kerastat Cream Is Best For Radiation Wounds
Your doctor will typically suggest that you keep the radiated area clean with warm water and fragrance-free soap. They may also suggest prophylactic, preventative, use of products to reduce or delay the effects of radiation wounds or burns. There are currently no known ways to prevent radiation dermatitis however, there are products on the market for radiation wound care. Consult with your doctor to see if applying KeraStat® Cream after your first radiation dose is right for you and your wound healing after radiation therapy journey.
Expert Review And References
- Canadian Cancer Society. Radiation Therapy: A Guide for People with Cancer. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society 2005.
- Radiotherapy. Cancer Research UK. CancerHelp UK. Cancer Research UK 2009.
- Haas ML. Radiation therapy. Varricchio, C., Pierce, M., Hinds, P. S., & Ades, T. B. A Cancer Source Book for Nurses. 8th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers 2004: 8: pp. 131-147.
- Radiotherapy. Macmillan Cancer Support. Macmillan Cancer Support. London, UK: Macmillan Cancer Support 2009.
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Cancer Care Pack For Skin And Lips Skin Soother Oil And Lip Balm Set For Radiation And Chemo Side Effects
- CANCER SKINCARE Use before radiation treatments to help prevent burns.
- CANCER LIP CARE Unscented and unflavored, as preferred by cancer patients.
- HEALING GIFT FOR CANCER PATIENTS Made from only all natural and organic ingredients.
- ANTI BACTERIAL AND ANTI MIBROBIAL Emu oil is safe and effective for people undergoing chemotherapy or radiation.
- RELIEVES DRY ITCHY SKIN on palms and feet, a common side effect of cancer treatment
What Is Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy rays or particles to treat disease. It works by killing tumor cells or inhibiting their growth and division.
Through years of clinical trials, radiation oncologists have studied the use of radiation therapy to treat breast cancer. These studies have led to the widespread use of effective and tolerable doses of radiation therapy. It is used to treat early stage breast cancer along with surgery for local control of disease. It may be used in more advanced breast cancer to control the disease or to treat symptoms, such as pain.
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What Is Radiation Therapy And How Does It Work
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cells only in the part of the body that is treated with the radiation. Breast cancer radiation therapy may be used to destroy any remaining mutated cells that remain in the breast or armpit area after surgery.
Note: There are special situations in which radiation is used for women with metastatic breast cancer experiencing painful bone metastasis. This section however focused on the use of radiation for adjuvant therapy .
Who should expect to be prescribed radiation therapy and what is involved?Some people with Stage 0 and most people with Stage 1 invasive cancer and higher, who have had a lumpectomy, can expect radiation therapy to be a part of their treatment regimen.
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The Good News About Radiation Treatments And Your Skin
Many people think skin problems go hand-in-hand with radiation treatments for cancer. But thats not always the case anymore.
Basically, most things we do now dont impact the skin at all said Eric M. Horwitz, MD, FABS, FASTRO, Chair of Radiation Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center. And if the skin is affected, there are simple ways to take care of it.
What You Can Expect
While skin reactions from radiation therapy are rarer now, some patients do experience skin that looks red, irritated, swollen, or sunburned. And after a few weeks, the affected area might become dry, flaky, or itchy.
Still other patients have no reaction at all. Whether or not youll have a reaction depends on your skin type and the area in the body youre being treated because the skin on some parts of the body is more sensitive to radiation treatments than others.
For instance, if were treating the chest wall or were treating breast or head and neck cancers, you can get more skin reaction, Horwitz said. Sometimes extremitiesarms or legscan get a skin reaction.
Theres also a scientific reason why some radiation treatments are more likely to trigger changes to the skin.
It depends on the angle of the x-ray beam that hits your skin and the energy of the radiation that hits the skin, Horwitz explained. Physics plays a role in why it happens. So, if were treating the pelvis or abdomen, the energy is focused deep below the skins surface. But if were treating a breast, its more superficial, so theres an increased dose of radiation affecting the skin.
If youre getting both chemotherapy and radiation, that can change the effect on your skin as well, Horwitz said.
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Tips To Get Through Radiation Treatment
1. Moisturize your skin.
Start using a water-based moisturizer after each treatment right away, even before any redness or dryness appears. Check with your radiation oncologist to see if there is a specific type or brand of moisturizer they prefer you use, but its best to stick to something mild and fragrance-free. Aquaphor and Glaxal Base are popular choices for people undergoing radiation, but go with whatever works for you.
2. Get rid of the itch!
After a few weeks, you may develop some itching. If the itching is fairly mild, try aloe vera or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. If the itching worsens, talk to your doctor who should be able to prescribe something more effective.
3. Ditch the bra.
If possible, go braless whenever you can to prevent irritation around the breast area, and definitely try to avoid underwires. Its also a good idea to stick to loose clothes and t-shirts. Use this time as an excuse to be comfy and casual youll be glad you did.
4. Become a shade-worshipper.
Radiation treatments typically come with less severe side effects than chemotherapy, and as a result many people find it easier. However, the cumulative effects of radiation paired with other treatments youve gone through can add up to some major fatigue by the time youre finished. Remember to take it easy and practice self-care. Schedule some downtime throughout and after your treatments , and make sure to get ample rest.
Want more tips for during radiation treatment? .
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Going Through Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy can harm normal tissue, so its carefully planned and precisely delivered. This helps ensure the radiation kills as many cancer cells as possible while doing as little injury as possible to other parts of your body.
Radiation therapy is planned specifically for your breast cancer, the shape of your body and your internal anatomy. This is why sessions cant be split between different treatment centers.
Your treatment plan is based on:
- The tumor size, type and location
- The number of lymph nodes with cancer
- The type of breast surgery you had
- The shape of your breast or chest wall, and the shape and location of nearby organs
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Cancer Doctors Usually Treat Cancer With Radiation Therapy Surgery Or Medications Including Chemotherapy Hormonal Therapy And/or Biologic Therapy Either Alone Or In Combination
If your cancer can be treated with radiation, you will be referred to a radiation oncologist a doctor who specializes in treating patients with radiation therapy. Your radiation oncologist will work with your primary doctor and other cancer specialists, such as surgeons and medical oncologists, to oversee your care. He or she will discuss the details of your cancer with you, the role of radiation therapy in your overall treatment plan and what to expect from your treatment.
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