Special considerations for radiation therapy

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There are many things that need to be considered when having radiation therapy. Find out some important things to think about during treatment as well as after radiation therapy is complete.

Key points

  • When having radiation therapy you should tell your radiation team about any medications you are taking and any ask any questions about what to expect or any concerns you may have.
  • Once radiation therapy is finished, it is very important to attend all of your follow-up appointments to check for any side effects and eventually late effects of radiation.

There is a lot to consider when you’re having radiation therapy. Here are some important things to think about.

  • Tell your radiation therapy team and your pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes any creams, supplements or herbal products. These can change the way radiation works.
  • Your body burns extra energy during radiation to repair any damage to your healthy cells. It’s important to eat foods that give you enough energy and protein to maintain a healthy weight. Learn more about eating well during treatment in the page Loss of appetite.
  • It’s normal to feel scared or nervous before radiation therapy. It’s good to have a routine that helps you relax. Some teens find it helpful to listen to music before or during treatments. Learn about meditation, relaxation, and other ways to reduce any anxiety in the section on relaxation and distraction.
  • Smoking cigarettes, including e-cigarettes (vaping) or joints (marijuana) can make radiation less effective and can actually make some side effects worse. Talk to your health-care team. They can support you while you stop smoking.
  • Time to see the dentist! Make an appointment and let your dentist know what kind of cancer treatment you’re having. With radiation to your head and neck, your teeth and gums may need some special attention.

If you have any questions about what to expect during radiation therapy, ask someone on your health-care team.

After radiation therapy

Once you’re finished radiation therapy, it's extra important that you have regular check-ups throughout the rest of your life.

For the first few years, these check-ups are both to check for cancer coming back and any side effects of radiation therapy. In later years, the check-ups will monitor you for any late effects (side effects that don’t happen until after radiation therapy is over, sometimes up to 20 years later). You will learn more about late effects and the importance of self-monitoring in later sections.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019