University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dos and Don'ts During Radiation Treatment

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Things you should do include:

  • Go about your life as usual. If you notice that you are having more fatigue, pace your activities.
  • Eat well. There is no special diet for radiation. a single multivitamine daily is okay.
  • Have social contact with friends and family members.
  • Arrive at your radiation appointments as scheduled.
  • If you are having any problems, please tell our staff. We are very concerned about your confort and experience.
  • Do your exercises if indicated.
  • Bathe and shower as usual but a mild soap such as Dove or Ivory. Avoid deodorant soaps and products that are heavily perfumed or contain alcohol.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing preferably cotton, over the tratment area.
  • You may need to wear a different bra or no bra during treatment. Switching from an underwire bra to one with a soft band is recommended.
  • Keep a cotton T-shirt handy for sleeping. This is especially good when you are applying heavy moisturizers to the area before bedtime.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures in the treatment area. Do not heating pads, ice packs, whirlpools, hot tubs as they can enhance skin reactions.
  • Avoid sun exposure. If you must go out in the sun, wear a hat and sun screen lotion. An SPF of 30 is the minimum recommended.

Things you should not do include:

  • Do not use deodorant on the side of your radiation treatment. Many of these products contain aluminum, which interferes with the radiation treatment. If this is a problem for you, we can prescribe a special deodorant that you use once a week.
  • Do not take large doses of anti-oxidants or vitamins. Anti-oxidants can decrease the effectiveness of radiation. You may take one multi-vitamin a day and your calcium supplements. If you would like to take other products, please bring them to your doctor's appointment so that we can review them. We will advise you if it is safe to take them during your treatment.
  • Do not take herbal remedies during radiation therapy as this may decrease the effectiveness of the treatment or increase adverse skin reactions.
  • Do not use your own lotions on the area being treated. We will advise you of all the lotions you need during your treatment. In general, please do not put any lotions on your breast area in the 3 hours right before your treatment. Otherwise, this may intensify your skin reaction.
  • Do not shave or use hair removing creams under the arm on the side of your treatment. This can cause irritation. If you feel you must shave, use an electric razor and be very careful.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer and lung inflammation ("pneumonitis"), especially when radiation is given.

Note: The information above was reproduced from the UCSF Radiation Oncology website at http://radonc.ucsf.edu.