Almost half of cancer patients receive treatment options that include radiation therapy in combination with surgery and chemotherapy where radiation therapy can be an overwhelming procedure but with proper preparation and management, the process can be manageable. Radiation therapy utilises focused, high-energy beams to target cancer cells, either externally or internally but before beginning radiation therapy, it is important to consider several essential tips to optimise treatment outcomes.

Radiation therapy tips: Ways to enhance treatment outcomes for cancer patients (Photo by Shutterstock)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Carla Hajj, MD, Radiation Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, advised, “Patients should quit smoking, follow specific skincare instructions, maintain hydration, adhere to dietary guidelines, and strive for weight stability. As you undergo radiation therapy, it can significantly impact your daily life and that of your family. It’s crucial to prioritise self-care during this time. While you may experience general side effects, additional effects may vary depending on the treatment area. Fatigue is common, so focus on adequate sleep and staying physically active.”

She added, “Moreover, patients undergoing radiation therapy in the head and neck area, need to be cautious about oral health. Simultaneously, the sensitivity of the skin to radiation therapy necessitates careful attention and a dedicated skincare routine. Avoid abrasive tools, use gentle moisturizers, and follow wound care instructions as needed. Clothing should be loose-fitting, and sun protection is crucial. Furthermore, incorporating light physical activity can help manage fatigue, mood, and stress, but starting intense exercise regimens during treatment is not recommended.”

Dr Carla Hajj suggested, “As radiation therapy progresses, maintaining a balanced diet with appropriate vitamin intake supports overall health, with multivitamins permitted within recommended limits and caution advised against excess dietary supplements without medical consultation. Through diligent care and attention, patients can mitigate potential side effects and optimize their radiation therapy journey towards successful outcomes. Remember, proactive self-care and adherence to medical advice are key elements in ensuring a positive treatment experience. Following the completion of treatment, vigilant monitoring of the treated area for any changes is advised, and seeking medical attention for unusual symptoms is essential for early detection and management.”

Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Rupal Chheda, Consultant Radiation Oncology at Fortis Hospital in Mulund, said, “Before starting treatment, patients should educate themselves about the procedure and potential side effects. With technological advances, there are now very few adverse effects. Consult your doctor for any concerns or questions you may have. Prioritise taking care of yourself during treatment and pay close attention to what your doctor says. To aid in your body’s healing, drink enough water, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any side effects or discomfort during radiation treatment. They can provide support and guidance to help reduce symptoms and enhance your quality of life. Reach out to your friends, family or support groups for emotional assistance.”

She concluded, “Following radiation therapy, keep an eye on your health and schedule follow-up appointments with your medical team as advised. Make sure to show up for all screenings and follow-up sessions to guarantee that any possible problems are immediately resolved. Give yourself time to rest and recover, and gradually resume your normal activities as you feel able. Lastly, be patient with yourself. Recovery takes time, so don’t rush the process. With proper preparation, self-care and support, you can navigate radiation therapy with resilience and strength.”