As you embark upon radiotherapy, pop the kettle on, make a nice cup of (green) tea and take a look at my list of do’s and don’t’s for radiotherapy:
1. During the course of your treatment you may want to change from an underwire bra to a non-wire bra, no bra or sports bra. This is to prevent any friction from the wire causing you discomfort. If you think you’ll change to a different style of bra then it is worth shopping for the bras before treatment starts – once treatment begins it can get tiring and you may not feel up to shopping. And avoid one bras – the radiographers sometimes use marker pens on your chest during the session and then can mark your bra.
2. Stock up on some good moisturiser for the affected area. I was recommended E45 but there are loads of really good creams you could use. Put E45 on the zapping area morning and night (ask the radiographers to point out the zapping area from day one because the skin doesn’t change colour until you are a week or so into the treatment and you can’t see where you have been zapped). Do this from a few days (or even weeks) before you start rads, every day throughout, and after rads until your skin has recovered sufficiently. I finished rads 3 months ago but my skin is still really dry, sore and itchy so I am still applying moisturiser every day. During rads when the skin starts to get a bit sore between moisturiser applications, you can apply E45. TYou can keep it in the fridge to make it even cooler.
3. Use gentle soaps in the bath and shower. Consider paraben free or organic ranges if you want to use something particularly gentle and free of chemicals.
4. After showering and bathing pat dry your skin in the zapping zone. This is to prevent friction causing your skin to get sore.
5. You can’t shave, wax or use hair removal creams on the armpit which is being zapped whilst you are going through the treatment. So remember to de-fuzz before your first appointment.
6. Radiotherapy can cause you to feel tired. The extent of tiredness is different for everyone. I was fine for the first half of my treatment, then started to feel tired and for the last few treatment days I felt completely knocked out. Be prepared for the tiredness to hit. Try to conserve energy where possible. A little bit of gentle exercise helps with the tiredness.
7. Be prepared for your skin to get redder and more sore in the couple of weeks after radiotherapy, and for your tiredness to continue for a few weeks. If this doesn’t happen to you then you are lucky, but it is best to be prepared. My radiographers said that my tiredness and soreness would peak two weeks after treatment ended and then start to improve. They were right although after a number of months I still had itchy red skin and tiredness.
8. If your skin gets very sore, you can get a barrier cream and soft cushioned dressings to protect it. But speak to your radiographers for advice if this occurs.
9. ALWAYS ask medical advice if your skin gets really sore, or something just doesn’t feel right.
10. You may feel OK to drive yourself to and from radiotherapy appointments but the tiredness does kick in after a week or so and you may want to ask friends or family members for help. Plus, the company to and from the appointments is a great distraction.
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