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Radiation therapy - what to ask your doctor

Definition

You are having radiation therapy to try to kill cancer cells. You may receive radiation therapy alone or also have other treatments at the same time. Your doctor or nurse may need to follow you closely while you are having radiation therapy. You will also need to learn how to care for yourself during this time.

Below are some questions you may want to ask your doctor.

Alternate Names

What to ask your doctor about radiation therapy

Questions

Should someone bring me to the radiation treatments?

What will my skin look like after radiation treatments? How should I take care of my skin?

  • Can I put creams or lotions on it?
  • Will I have skin sores? How should I treat them?
  • Can I remove the marks on my skin that the doctor or technician made?
  • Will my skin hurt?
  • Can I go out in the sun? Should I use sunscreen? Do I need to stay indoors during cold weather?

Am I at risk of infections?

  • What foods should I not eat so that I do not get an infection?
  • Is my water at home okay to drink? Are there places I should not drink the water?
  • Can I go swimming?
  • What should I do when I go to a restaurant?
  • Can I be around pets?
  • What immunizations do I need? Which immunizations should I stay away from?
  • Is it okay to be in a crowd of people? Do I have to wear a mask?
  • Can I have visitors over? Do they need to wear a mask?
  • When should I wash my hands?

Am I at risk of bleeding? Is it okay to shave? What should I do if I cut myself or start bleeding?

What over-the-counter medicines am I allowed to take?

Are there any other medicines I should keep on hand?

Do I need to use birth control?

What should I be eating to keep my weight and strength up?

Are there any foods or vitamins and supplements I should avoid?

Will I be sick to my stomach or have loose stools or diarrhea? How long after I start radiation treatment might these problems start? What can I do if I am sick to my stomach or have diarrhea often?

How should I take care of my mouth and lips?

  • How can I prevent mouth sores?
  • How often should I brush my teeth? What type of toothpaste should I use?
  • What can I do about dry mouth?
  • What should I do if I have a mouth sore?

What can I do about my fatigue?

When should I call the doctor?


Review Date: 11/17/2012
Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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