Following are some general questions and answers about Radiation Therapy treatments.

Will I be Radioactive?

External Beam Radiation Therapy (the type most people receive) won't make you radioactive. The radiation generated by the treatment machine switches off once the treatment finishes and it doesn't remain in your body so its fine to be around other people while you are having treatment.

Some procedures, such as Brachytherapy treatment, deliver the radiation dose internally using an implanted radioactive source which, while it is in place, will be emitting some radioactivity. This treatment is only used for certain types of cancers, such as cancer of the cervix. If you are having this type of treatment any precautions required will be explained to you in detail.

How should I care for my skin in the Treatment Area?

Please do not apply anything to the treatment area without checking with a member of your Radiation team first. The Radiation Therapist will show you the area that will be treated and you will also receive written information with specific instructions on how to care for your skin.

Treatment areas should be protected from further irritation such as rubbing, friction and pressure. Skin in the treatment area also needs to be protected from excessive sunlight, heat and cold.

Can I go Swimming?

You can swim in the sea while on treatment (as long as your skin isn't too sore) but its advisable not to swim in a chlorinated pool. It's fine to swim anywhere once any skin reaction has settled down, which in most cases is a month or so after finishing treatment. If you want to swim outdoors however, remember to protect your skin against the sun.

Can I Exercise or go to Work?

Many people find that keeping active while having radiation treatment helps to reduce fatigue.  Remember though, to listen to your body; if you do feel like you need a rest, then try and make some time to do so.

Read the Cancer Society brochure on 'Being active when you have cancer'.

For most patients as long as you feel fit and able there is no reason why you can't go to work, but remember that the treatment may make you tired. If you have concerns about driving or operating machinery, talk to your oncology doctor. 

Will my Hair fall out?

Radiation therapy treatment may make you lose your hair but only in the area we are treating. For example, if we are treating your chest then it won't affect the hair on your head. Hair loss may be permanent or temporary, it depends on how much dose you are given.

If we expect you to lose the hair from your head, information will be given about how you can get a wig made.

Will Radiation Therapy treatment affect my Fertility?

Your oncologist will discuss this with you before you start treatment. If your fertility will be affected the options to preserve fertility will be discussed with you before starting any treatment. 

If you are a woman of childbearing age, it is important that you don't become pregnant during your treatment.  This is because radiation treatment given during pregnancy could harm a developing baby.

If you think that you may be pregnant at any time during your treatment, please tell your health care team immediately.

Please discuss the need for contraception with your Radiation Oncologist or nurse. Your Radiation Oncologist can also tell you how long you should wait after you have finished treatment before attempting to conceive a child.

Can I take Dietary Supplements such as vitamins during my treatment?

Some supplements are OK but others are not. You should tell your Doctor about any supplements you are taking before your radiation therapy begins.

The best way to makes sure you are getting all the vitamins you need is to eat a healthy, balanced diet and if you have any questions about what to eat please let us know: we can, if necessary, refer you to our team of dieticians.

Can I take Supplements or use Complementary or Alternative therapy while I am having radiation treatment?

We understand that you may want to do all you can to support yourself when you have a cancer diagnosis and are undergoing treatment. We support people in maintaining their wellness. However it is very important to speak with your Radiation Oncologist about any supplements, over the counter medicines, complementary or alternative medicines or therapies you may be taking or considering starting, for any reason, not just cancer related.

Many drugs we use in traditional medicine are derived from natural sources. Many medicines whether directly from natural sources or not can interact with each other, either positively or negatively.

We base any decision about using these medicines or therapies on the scientific evidence available to us. There are a number of therapies that have been proven beneficial and are safe to undertake while you are receiving treatment. However there are some medicines or therapies that have been proven to interfere with the benefit radiation therapy can offer you. In these cases we would recommend that you don't partake of them while receiving your treatment. We want the best outcome possible for you.

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Page last reviewed: 14 November 2017