Radiotherapy

The do’s and don’ts of radiotherapy: advice for patients in treatment

Posted by Sara Liyanage on 10 February 2023

As you embark upon radiotherapy, pop the kettle on, make a nice cup of tea and take a look at our list of do’s and don’t’s for radiotherapy. We’ve written this article from our perspective as patients. We encourage you to talk to your medical team about your personal situation.

Ten pieces of advice for radiotherapy patients:

  1. During the course of your radiotherapy treatment you may want to change from an underwired bra to a non-wire bra, no bra or sports bra. This is to prevent any friction from the wire causing you discomfort. If you think you’ll change to a different style of bra then it is worth shopping for the bras before treatment starts – once treatment begins it can get tiring and you may not feel up to shopping. And avoid white bras – the Therapeutic Radiographers sometimes use marker pens on your chest during the session for measurements and then may mark your bra.
  2. Stock up on some good moisturiser for the affected area. Some people are recommended E45 but there are loads of really good creams you could use such as Aveeno or MooGoo. You can also use a 99% Aloe Vera gel concurrently with this which really helps with healing, but this is up to you.
    Put moisturiser (and the gel if you want to) on the zapping area morning and night (ask the Therapeutic Radiographers to point out the zapping area from day one because the skin doesn’t change colour until you are a week or so into the treatment and you can’t see where you have been zapped). Do this from a few days (or even weeks) before you start radiotherapy, every day throughout, and after radiotherapy until your skin has recovered sufficiently.
    During radiotherapy when the skin starts to get a bit sore between moisturiser applications, you can apply moisturiser. Sometimes the affected area can become warm to touch, so you can keep the moisturiser in the fridge to make it even cooler.
  3. Use gentle soaps in the bath and shower. Consider Paraben free or organic ranges if you want to use something particularly gentle and free of chemicals. Do not scrub the treatment area.
  4. After showering and bathing pat dry your skin in the zapping zone. This is to prevent friction causing your skin to get sore.
  5. You can’t shave, wax or use hair removal creams on the armpit which is being zapped whilst you are going through the treatment. So remember to de-fuzz before your first appointment.
  6. Radiotherapy can cause you to feel tired. The extent of tiredness is different for everyone. Be prepared for the tiredness to hit. Try to conserve energy where possible. A little bit of gentle exercise and ensuring you drink enough water every day helps with the tiredness.
  7. Be prepared for your skin to get redder and sorer in the couple of weeks after radiotherapy, and for your tiredness to continue for a few weeks. This doesn’t happen to everyone but is better to be prepared if it does.
  8. If your skin gets very sore, it’s important to speak to the Radiotherapy Treatment Review team for advice and management as they have everything you’d need to look after you.
  9. ALWAYS ask medical advice if your skin gets really sore, or something just doesn’t feel right.
  10. If you’ll be driving to and from the hospital (rather than using public transport), you may feel OK to drive yourself to and from radiotherapy appointments but the tiredness does kick in after a week or so and you may want to ask friends or family members for help. Plus, the company to and from the appointments is a great distraction.
HELPFUL RESOURCES AND MORE INFORMATION

Future Dreams offers a wide range of support groups, classes and workshops tailored for people going through any stage of a breast cancer journey. Click here to have a look at our schedule – we’d love to welcome you.

Super helpful information is on the Breast Cancer Now website and Cancer Research UK website.

Respire.org – a website for patients who have been referred for radiotherapy to the breast or chest wall following a breast cancer diagnosis. In particular, the aim of the resources is to help patients who have been diagnosed with cancer in their breast for whom it may be beneficial to learn how to hold their breath for a short time during radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy UK – this is a charity dedicated to improving radiotherapy treatment, the aim of which is to support radiotherapy research and development and support radiotherapy professionals by providing online tools to enhance collaboration. Their website provides so informative resources for those going through radiotherapy.

Future Dreams hold a range of support groups, classes, workshops and events to help you and your carers during your breast cancer diagnosis. These are held both online and in person at the London-based Future Dreams House. To see what’s on offer and to book your place, see here.

To return to the homepage of our Information Hub, click here where you can access helpful information, practical advice, personal stories and more.

February 2023

The information and content provided on this page has been written from a patient’s perspective then reviewed by Naman Julka-Anderson, Senior Therapeutic Radiographer (Macmillan Treatment Review Radiographer) and member of Radiotherapy UK, and also by a breast care nurse. It is intended for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your medical team for advice on anything covered in this article. The links and/or recommendations in this article to third-party resources are for your information and we take no responsibility for the content contained in those third-party resources. Any product recommendations made in this article are not product endorsements and unless otherwise stated, they are made without any affiliation to the brand of that product. We ask you to note that there may be other similar products available.

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