Radiation Therapy

This type of treatment uses radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Radiation usually follows surgery to target any cancer cells that might still be around the area of the surgery. Radiation is given for a number of consecutive weeks, 5-7 days a week, as determined by a radiation oncologist. The most common type of radiation is external, which means it is directed from outside the body to the area inside the body where the cancer was removed. Internal radiation, which is less common, is given by inserting small “seeds” of radioactive material directly into the affected area. 

Side Effects of Radiation

  • skin soreness
  • skin redness
  • skin dryness
  • fatigue

The side effects of radiation can sometimes be prevented or managed with good nutrition, hydration and skin care. Still, don’t ignore them if they’re affecting your loved one’s quality of life! 

Some people choose to continue working during radiation treatment, and for them the logistics might include making arrangements to be away from work for a period of time each day. Others may be caring for small children at home. If this is the case, you may find yourself searching for childcare, sometimes at odd hours and for relatively brief periods of time. Since each person is different, it is helpful to find out what your loved one would (and, just as importantly, would not) find supportive. 

It is also crucial for you to think through what you feel able to provide in terms of help. It could be that your loved one would like for you to take him or her to the radiation treatment every day. Depending on your work schedule and the radiation schedule, it may not be possible or wise for you to take that much time away from work. Only you can determine this. Finding balance is the key. There is a balance between meeting the wants and needs of your loved one during treatment, and managing your own practical matters. Discussing logistical possibilities in advance really helps.

Radiation and  Caregiving 

One of the big challenges with radiation therapy is scheduling treatment. It often involves going to the doctor’s office or clinic every day, or almost every day, for many weeks. You can help your loved one during this time by: 

  • Offering to drive or find others to drive him or her to and from appointments. 
  • Making sure your loved one gets enough rest. 
  • Helping your loved one find the best physician-approved creams and other treatments to soothe any painful areas.

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