Once Your Treatment Begins

You will be coming for daily treatment for several weeks. An appointment time is routinely prearranged. Arrive a few minutes before your scheduled time, as there are normally patients treated before and after you. If you are going to be late or unable to come, please call us and we will try to accommodate you. A short wait before your treatment is not unusual. The usual total treatment and preparation time is less than thirty minutes. You will most often see the technologist, who administers the daily treatment. If you are having any problems or side effects, tell the technologist and he or she will communicate them to the physician. The physician will usually see you weekly to monitor your progress.


Since the treatment often will require the removal of your clothes to uncover the area being treated, wear clothing that is easy to remove. The marks placed on your skin to help us target the tumor must be maintained throughout the treatment course. Do not use soap in the area or rub off the marks. You may shower and expose the treated area, but do not rub the area with a towel. Instead, “pat dry” the area gently. Talk with your radiation therapist about recommended skin care. Remember, the treatment area should be protected from the sun during the course of treatment. 


Eat a normal, well-balanced diet with three regular meals. If you have trouble eating large portions, eat six smaller meals with snacks, if possible. This is one of the few times in your life when you will have the doctor’s permission to splurge and gain weight. Dieting to lose weight during your radiation therapy is not advisable. In general, you should aim to take in at least 2000 calories per day.


If you have trouble eating or swallowing, dietary supplements are necessary to maintain an adequate caloric intake. There are many products available including Ensure Plus, Isocal, Sustacal, and others. Some of these may be too sweet, and often a drop of bitters in each glass will make it more palatable. At least three or four cans of these supplements are necessary to provide an adequate number of calories. In some cases, a temporary tube can be placed in your stomach (PEG tube) to allow you to get nutrition directly to the bowels, if for some reason you are unable to swallow foods.


If you are eating a balanced diet, vitamins are generally not necessary. However, if you do not eat properly, any commercial multivitamin preparation taken daily may be helpful. If you are anemic, a multivitamin with iron may be more appropriate. Other vitamin supplements, including A, B12, C, and others, have not been shown to be effective against cancer. You should specifically avoid supplements like vitamins A and E, which are free radical scavengers, as in high doses they may impair the ability of the radiation to kill the cancer cells.


You may continue your normal activities if you feel up to it. However, you may notice some fatigue during the treatment course and may need torest more and perhaps take an afternoon nap. Most people are able to work while receiving treatment, but may need to adjust their hours, depending upon their level of fatigue. Exercise within limits is still advisable. Walking, jogging, bicycling, and swimming are all good if your physical condition permits. We do ask that you try to keep any areas being irradiated out of the direct sunlight, to limit the tendency to sunburn.


If you currently drive, you should be able to drive yourself to and from the treatment center daily. If you have a medical problem which limits your ability to drive, the physician may advise you not to drive. If you are unable to find anyone to drive you, the American Cancer Society often has volunteers who will drive you to the center at no charge. In Jacksonville, the phone number is (904) 398-0537. Consult your phone book for the local chapter in other communities. If you continue to have difficulty, please call the center at which you are to be treated for transportation assistance.


Do not take any non-prescription drugs or supplements without informing our staff. Continue to take your regular medications prescribed by other physicians, but please let us know what you take so we can be sure the drugs will not adversely affect your therapy.


Your weight will be checked weekly to help monitor your progress and tolerance to the treatments. If anything related to your treatment is worrying you please notify your therapist or nurse.