Radiotherapy plays a crucial role in treating cancer. However, it may harm healthy cells at or near the treatment region, leading to several discomforts. While some patients experience many side effects, others have a few or none. Some painful, uncomfortable side effects that you may encounter after a radiotherapy session include redness, itchiness, peeling, and blistering.
The good thing is that your radiotherapy team will work with you before treatment commences to discuss how to take care of the treatment area, the side effects to look out for, and how to manage them. Here is how you can reduce radiotherapy sessions’ discomforts.
Protect the Treated Area Against Sun Rays
After a radiation therapy session, your skin may become extra sensitive to sunlight. So, it will help if you use dark-colored or UV-protective clothing to conceal the treated skin before heading outside. Inquire from your treatment team whether it’s safe to use sunscreen.
Suppose it’s healthy to use sunscreen on your skin. In that case, you should consider using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher. Several studies by NCBI show that sunscreen reduces the risks of melanoma skin cancers.
Avoid Wearing Tight Outfits Over the Treatment Area
You should not wear a rough-textured, stiff, or tight cloth around the treatment area. Also, avoid anything elastic that may squeeze the area. If possible, wear loose outfits designed from smooth, soft fabrics.
Do not Rub the Treated Skin
Scrubbing, scratching, or using adhesive tape around the treated skin is prohibited. If you must bandage or cover your skin, use the mepilex lite sizes because they suit sensitive skins. Try to put this thin foam dressing outside the treated area, and don’t put it around the same spot every time.
Stay Away from Excessive Heat or Cold
You should avoid placing a heat lamp, a heating pad, or an ice pack around the treated area without consulting your radiotherapy treatment team. Use lukewarm water when washing the treated area because hot water might irritate your skin.
Also, it is advisable to use mild soap and let lukewarm water run over the treated area when bathing. Do not rub the ink marks required for your radiotherapy sessions until they are done.
Consult Your Cancer Team before Using any Skincare Product
Before using creams, powders, deodorants, perfumes, ointments, body oils, hair-removal products, lotions, or other home remedies around the treatment area, you should contact your cancer care team. While some skincare products may leave a coating on the skin that might irritate, others affect the dose of radiation that penetrates your skin.
It will also be helpful to take a break from skincare products containing fragrances. Some skincare products and makeups have a fragrance that may irritate and cause a reaction to your skin. Unless the product is labeled “fragrance-free,” the chances are high that it includes fragrance.
Use a Low-pH, Gentle Cleanser
Your cancer care team might recommend you some skincare products that you may use. If you use a cleanser, gently apply it with your hands and then use warm water to rinse it. Again, it would help if you avoided a sponge or washcloth as it can irritate your skin.
Care for Wounds as Recommended
Some patients develop scabs, redness, or sores during radiotherapy. Thus, you should follow the guidelines if you need to look after your wound. This way, you can avoid discomfort and recover much more quickly.
Get Medication from Your Doctors
Some side effects, such as headaches, may occur due to brain swelling caused by radiation. Your medic will prescribe medicines to curb potential brain swelling, but it is always essential to inform your radiotherapy about headaches or other distress.
If your headaches don’t originate from the radiation therapy session, try these methods to avoid discomfort.
How Long Does Radiotherapy Discomfort Last?
The type of radiotherapy side effects that you get relies on the prescribed dose and schedule. While most discomforts vanish within a few months after treatment completion, others continue after the treatment because the healthy cells take more time to recuperate from the radiation.
These distresses might restrict your ability to perform some things, and the things you can do depend on your feelings. Some patients can work or enjoy leisure activities as they get radiotherapy, but others say they need more rest.
So, suppose you have bothersome radiotherapy side effects affecting your health or daily activities. In that case, your doctor may change the schedule, halt the treatments for a while, or even change the administered treatment.