Coping with Treatment
Taking Care of Yourself
It is important that you take especially good care of yourself while undergoing treatment. Listen to your body. If you have questions about diet, sexual activity, medications, disability or anything else, talk them over with your physician.
REMEMBER: Most patients receiving radiation therapy continue to do whatever they did before. They go to work or school and take care of their families. However, you will need more rest and should maintain healthy eating habits.
About Radiation Therapy
Potential Side Effects
Most patients experience some side effects during radiation therapy. Your physician will discuss with you the expected reactions of treatment. If you are worried about possible side effects or are having a symptom you feel may be related to your treatment, discuss this with your physician or nurse.
Some patients who are treated in the neck area feel a sensation like a lump in the throat. Patients treated to the chest may have a cough, increased bronchial secretions and some difficulty swallowing. This will clear a few weeks after you finish your course of treatment.
Patients receiving radiation to the stomach or abdomen areas may have some diarrhea and/or nausea. Treatment to the pelvis may cause symptoms of irritation to the bladder and the rectum, loose stools and diarrhea. The physician can prescribe a special diet or medication to reduce this. It is not unusual to feel tired during the course of radiation therapy. Many patients find it helpful to take an afternoon nap and to get an extra hour or so of sleep each night. Your body is your best guide.
Most patients will not lose their hair. If the area receiving radiation has hair, it may be lost temporarily.
Coping with Fatigue
The social worker can help you solve practical problems such as lodging or transportation, or link you with community services such as the American Cancer Society or the Peregrine Society. During periods of illness, patients and their families have special concerns. Living with cancer is often a reason for feeling anxious or depressed. Sometimes, talking about these feelings can help you find new ways to cope.
Social workers address problems that delay or interfere with obtaining radiation oncology treatments:
The Radiation Oncology Department offers the services of a social worker to provide individual, marital or family counseling when cancer causes depression, anxiety or stress. Social Work is an integral part of the services provided by your healthcare team and can be a vital link to:
Social work facilitate groups that offer:
To reach the Radiation Oncology social worker: Contact Us
The following guidelines will help protect your skin during radiation therapy:
The importance of maintaining good nutrition is a vital part of medical care for individuals with cancer. Nutrients are the basic ingredients that cells, tissues and organs in the body require to reproduce, maintain and repair themselves. The body requires nutrients - protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and water on a regular basis and in proper amounts to function effectively. Your physician or nurse may recommend that you meet with a dietitian while you are receiving radiation therapy or before you start your treatment.
Dietitians on staff at the Department of Radiation Oncology are registered members of the American Dietetic Association and licensed in the state of Missouri. They specialize in the medical nutrition therapy for patients diagnosed with cancer. A registered dietitian can assist you with the following:
If you would like to meet with a dietitian, please notify your physician, nurse, or therapist Contact Us.
If you exercised routinely before your radiation therapy began you may try to continue. You are the best judge of what you feel like doing. Don't hesitate to ask the physicians or nurses if you have questions
Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center Radiation Oncology Department is completely opposed to smoking. Patients receiving head and neck radiation will find cigarette smoke especially irritating. Talk to the physician or nurse if you are having trouble giving up cigarettes. For help quitting, the Cancer Information Center offers "Take Control of Your Life," a six-session behavior modification program offered four times a year. For information, Contact Us or stop by the Cancer Information Center, BJH north, first floor. In consideration of other patients, smoking is not allowed in the Radiation Oncology Department.