Laundry List - For RT Patients

Julie composed the first pass at this list.  Click here to read Julie's Story

Additional ideas/contribution would be greatly appreciated.

The People You'll Meet:
The radiation oncologist is the physician who will plan your treatment and manage your care during therapy. The radiation therapy (oncology) nurse will give you specific instructions related to your care during radiation therapy. The radiation therapist will actually be giving you your daily treatment. The therapist, who has been specially trained in a certified school of radiologic technology, works closely with your physician and nurse. A registered dietician may be available upon request to provide assistance with nutritional needs. It is very important to maintain a well-balanced diet while undergoing treatments.

The Treatment Experience:
After meeting with the radiation oncologist for an initial physical examination and complete medical history, you'll have a second appointment for treatment planning. This involves taking x-rays, and perhaps a CT scan to accurately plan the area to be treated. A mask will be made for you to wear during the treatments. A special gauze material is placed on your face and it hardens and forms to the exact shape of your face. The mask is then marked in various locations where the exact beams are to enter your body. The treatment itself is painless. Your head will be held in place by the mask being secured onto the table. You will be required to lie completely still during the treatment. You will be alone in the room while you are receiving the radiation, but the therapist can see you on a TV screen and can hear you through the intercom.

Caring for Your Teeth:

See a dentist BEFORE starting treatments. This is crucial. Radiation to the head and neck is very hard on the teeth and you'll want to have any necessary dental work done beforehand. Ask your dentist about having fluoride trays made before treatments to help keep your teeth healthy. Brush your teeth after every meal. Use a soft toothbrush and toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.


Jim Adds:

Ask for a fluoride toothpaste, Biotine gum and Biotine mouth wash helps also


Mel Adds:

Try for extra soft tooth brushes.  2 brands in particular I ordered that were wondrously soft were the Butler Gum Delicate Post-Surgical toothbrush @ 2.99 each, and the Dr. Collins Perio Toothbrush @ 3.98 each.

Mouth & Throat:
After 2 or 3 weeks of daily treatments, you may experience dry mouth, soreness, taste changes and difficulty swallowing. To help manage these side effects:
1. Drink fluids often. Keep a water bottle with you at all times. Keep water at your bedside.
2. Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless mints or hard candy.
3. Use a humidifier at home.
4. Use salivary substitutes (artificial saliva available at drug stores.)
5. Moisten food with gravies, sauces or other liquids.
6. Avoid commercial mouth washes.
7. Avoid tobacco and alcohol.
8. Avoid dry, hard, scratchy food.
9. Avoid spicy foods or citrus foods - these may be irritating.
10. Eat small frequent meals throughout the day.
11. Use nutritional supplements that are soothing and easy to swallow.

You may experience taste changes, a bitter, metallic taste in your mouth, loss of tolerance for sweet foods and complete loss of taste. You may need to force yourself to eat and will find bland foods are best.

If you have any problem with thick saliva, you may try gargling with a solution of 1 tsp. baking soda plus 1 tsp. salt in one quart of water. Gargle and swish at least 4 times a day. Carbonated water is also useful for thick saliva.

Hair Loss:
Any hair loss you experience will only be in the treated area. It may be temporary but can be permanent (depending on the amount of radiation you receive.) Regrowth will begin several weeks after treatment ends.

Skin Care:
Your skin may become dry and pink after 2 or 3 weeks of treatments. Use mild soap. Do not put creams, lotions, powders or deodorants on the skin being treated. Do not put anything on the skin prior to treatments. Wear loosely fitting clothing, preferably made of cotton with a smooth surface. Avoid the use of heating pads, ice packs and very hot or cold water in the area being treated. Avoid exposing the skin to the sun during treatment.

Jim Adds: My Rt Nurse gave me some RadiaGel for the skin and most of all a positive attitude!

Rochelle  Adds: Aqueous cream is a good gentle moisturizer, cheap too!