Caring for Yourself During Radiation

Author: Karen Arnold-Korzeniowski, MSN and Courtney Misher, MPH, BRST(T)
Last Reviewed: January 02, 2024

Caring for yourself during radiation is important. Talk to your provider about how you can take care of yourself during this time. Here are some tips that may help you feel your best during treatment.

Get Plenty of Rest

Radiation can make you feel tired or fatigued. Try to get a good night’s sleep. Ask for help from friends and family when you need it. Plan to take a nap or do something relaxing when you have time. Most importantly, listen to your body and don’t try to overdo it.

Eat a Balanced and Nutritious Diet

Your body will need proper nutrition during radiation therapy. The area of your body being treated, such as head and neck or abdomen, can affect your ability to eat well. If available, a dietitian would be a good resource to work with to make sure you get the nutrients you need. Do not take supplements and vitamins without first talking with your radiation care team.

Take Care of your Skin

Your skin can become very sensitive during radiation therapy. Below is a list of things you should and should not do that will help protect your skin during radiation.

You should:

  • Wash your skin every day with warm water and gentle soap.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing near the treatment area.
  • Wear a hat or clothing to protect your skin from direct sunlight – especially the treatment area.
  • Apply moisturizer regularly.
  • Only use skincare products recommended by your care team.

You should not:

  • Scrub your skin in the treatment area.
  • Shave your skin in this area with a razor. If you need to shave you should use an electric razor.
  • Place any sticky adhesives on your skin.
  • Put makeup on your skin in the treatment area.
  • Put anything hot or cold directly on your skin in the treatment area.

Your care team will let you know which of these things you should continue to do even after your radiation is complete.

Seek Emotional Support

After a cancer diagnosis, it is important to seek support. Cancer and its treatment can change your day-to-day life and put a strain on your personal life. There are many emotional stressors you will deal with. It is normal to feel afraid, anxious, depressed, or hopeless. Talking to a friend, family member, nurse, therapist, or social worker can be helpful. There are also support groups such as counselors, online and in-person support groups, and cancer helplines. Don’t be afraid to seek help.

Radiation therapy is an important part of your cancer treatment. If you are having side effects or other issues that are making it hard for you to take care of yourself or get to treatment, talk to your provider about how you can manage them.

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