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Radiation Therapy: Your Daily Life

Radiation therapy can help you in your fight against cancer. To feel better, get plenty of rest, exercise, and eat well. This will give your body the extra strength it needs right now. Also, look to family and friends for support and comfort.

Man and woman outside, walking dog.

Family and friends

You will decide when you can talk openly about your cancer. Friends and family can be a great source of comfort. Or, you may find it more helpful talking to a counselor at first. People will be willing to help when they learn how you feel. Ask for help when you need it, and accept help when it’s offered.

Work

Most side effects of radiation therapy are limited to the area being treated and many people work (and play) during their course of radiation therapy. Since everyone is different and each treatment can vary, be sure to ask your healthcare provider if you can expect to work throughout the course of radiation therapy. 

Sometimes the combination of radiation and chemotherapy causes fatigue or drops in blood counts and you may feel too tired to work. If that happens, you should speak with your employer about adjusting your schedule or working from home. If your blood counts are too low to be around lots of people, your healthcare provider will alert you and take precautions. 

Exercise

An exercise program may help you sleep better and control some side effects. Exercise when you have the most energy. Don’t push yourself. Instead of jogging, take a walk or ride a stationary bike.

Sex

Fatigue may affect your desire to have sex. Radiation therapy to the pelvis may affect the sexual organs. Talk to your partner and your radiation therapy team:

  • If you don’t feel like having sex, explore other ways to be close, such as hugging, cuddling, and talking.

  • Radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause permanent infertility. If you plan to have children in the future, talk to your healthcare provider.

  • If you want to have sex, go ahead. A water-based lubricant may help. During radiation treatment (and during chemotherapy), be sure to take steps to prevent pregnancy.

Will treatment make me radioactive?

If you are worried about treatment making you radioactive, know that: 

  • External radiation therapy or X-ray therapy of any kind will not make you radioactive. You don’t have to worry about being physically close to friends or family members, including young children or babies.

  • Internal radiation therapy sometimes means that radioactive material is put into your body. Your healthcare providers will let you know if you will be radioactive and tell you what precautions to take. Make sure to ask your healthcare providers for details. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Herold, David M., MD
Last Review Date: 1/14/2016
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.