Five Tips to Get Through Radiation

Radiation therapy is part of the cancer journey for many, and while radiation may not hurt, it can have side effects that impact one’s hair, skin, sleep and appetite—this can become both mentally and physically draining for patients.

But those side effects can be managed. Rethink Breast Cancer put together five tips for getting through radiation treatment that canhelp give patients a better quality of life.

“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 it’s 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. It’s also a good idea to stick to loose clothes and t-shirts. Use this time as an excuse to be comfy and casual — you’ll be glad you did.

4. Become a shade-worshipper.

Stay out of the sun while you’re undergoing radiation. If you can’t avoid exposure, make sure to cover up the area where you’re receiving your radiation. It’s best to keep this up even after treatment has ended, because your radiated skin will be more sensitive to the sun. If you are outside, use sunblock. You can also purchase a rash guard/cover-up to wear when you go swimming, which will give you full coverage protection. 

5. Rest!

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 you’ve gone through can add up to some major fatigue by the time you’re finished. Remember to take it easy and practice self-care. Schedule some downtime throughout and after your treatments (Netflix, anyone?), and make sure to get ample rest.” 

A proper self-care regimen can make a big difference in reducing the severity of radiation therapy side effects and coming out on the other side stronger than ever.