Knowing what to expect during and after treatment can help you prepare and reduce any anxiety that you may be feeling. The following information has been put together to help you understand your radiation therapy treatment, and we hope to reduce any concerns you have. It does not replace discussion with your doctor, or the advice of your treatment team specific to your needs.
Radiation therapy may cause side effects. Everyone is different and you’re unlikely to experience all of the side effects listed.
During treatment your skin may become red, itchy or irritated. Towards the end of treatment, the skin reaction can become more intense however usually returns to normal one to two weeks after short course radiation therapy finishes, and four to six weeks after longer courses of treatment.
You may feel tired or lack energy for daily activities during your treatment. You may feel increasingly tired as you reach the end of your treatment. This is a common reaction to radiation therapy and each person can be affected differently. Fatigue usually eases a few weeks after treatment finishes. Finding a balance between rest and activity will help you manage daily life.
Pain and discomfort
Your doctor can prescribe pain relief to help control any pain or discomfort you are experiencing. It is important that you follow instructions carefully, which may include taking pain medication prior to treatment to ensure your pain is managed effectively and your comfort is maintained.
Radiation therapy to bone areas can cause a temporary increase in pain in the area being treated. It can occur after one dose of radiation and it usually lasts from 12 to 36 hours. If you experience a pain flare we can help to control this with the use of additional pain relief medication.
Your radiation oncologist will discuss any possible long-term side effects related specifically to your treatment.
Prescriptions and vitamins
Continue to take any prescribed medications. Please inform your nurse if you are taking vitamins, antioxidants or herbal supplements and if you are commenced on any new medications during your radiation therapy treatment.
If you have any questions regarding medications please discuss this with your radiation oncologist or nurse.
You may continue your usual work and activities, but you may need to rest more than usual due to tiredness or fatigue during treatment. Unless otherwise advised, you can eat and drink normally. Alcohol consumption in moderation is permitted, and you can continue to take any prescribed medications.
We ask that you don’t deliberately wash them off as this may further irritate your skin. The radiation therapists will reapply them each day as required.
Reviews and follow up appointments will be discussed and organised by your treatment team prior to completing treatment.
You may experience an improvement in your pain level towards the end of your treatment and further improvement may occur in the four to six weeks after completion of your treatment.
Radiation therapy treatment keeps working even after you have stopped coming in for regular treatment. This means symptoms may get a little worse before they get better. Generally, side effects will settle within two to four weeks of finishing your treatment.
Radiation therapy does not make you radioactive and it is safe to be around others, including children and pregnant women during and after your treatment. There is no restriction on physical contact with others.