Frequently Asked Questions

About Your Radiation Treatment Experience

What side effects will I experience?
Before the radiation treatments begin, your radiation oncologist will discuss possible side effects and how to manage them. Although most side effects are temporary, when they arise you should talk to your radiation oncologist or a nurse to learn how to ease any discomfort you may feel. Side effects depend primarily on the area being treated, vary from one individual to another and are dependent on such factors as your age, general health and whether you have had other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery.

Most patients develop a skin reaction. The area of skin exposed to the radiation may become red, itchy, tanned or blistered, similar to a sunburn. Most of these reactions are temporary; they typically start a few weeks after treatment begins, and subside within a few weeks after the completion of radiation therapy.

Are there any restrictions on my activities?
You are encouraged to carry out usual daily activities. Some of our patients continue to work during their treatment course, while others need to take extra time to meet the emotional and physical demands of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. You should do what feels best for you. Many patients notice a decrease in their energy levels during the radiation treatments, especially if they have had other treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy.

Will I need to follow a special diet?
Most patients receiving radiation therapy do not need to change their diet. In general, you should eat a well-balanced diet to maintain your weight and to provide the nutrients necessary for normal tissue recovery. Radiation therapy will affect your ability to eat if you are being treated in areas near the digestive tract (head and neck region, esophagus, stomach, pelvis, etc.). If you are receiving radiation to one of these areas, your nurse will talk to you about ways to modify your diet.

Will I be radioactive after receiving radiation therapy?
No, neither you nor your clothing will be radioactive, and you can’t take radiation home with you. It is safe for you to be around small children.

Can I receive radiation therapy if I’m pregnant?
If you know you are pregnant — or if there is even a possibility that you might be pregnant — please notify your radiation oncologist. It is important that you do not become pregnant while you are receiving radiation therapy or other cancer treatments.

Will I lose my hair?
You will not lose any hair on your head unless your scalp is being treated with radiation. Most patients do not lose their hair from radiation treatments. If you are receiving a high dose of radiation to a specific area, you may lose the hair where the radiation beam enters the body. If you are receiving radiation treatment for brain or head tumors, then you most likely will lose your hair.

Will I be able to work?
Many patients are able to go to work if they are receiving radiation therapy alone (not in combination with other therapies). How much you are able to work depends on how you feel. Ask a member of your radiation team what you may expect based on your individual treatment plan.

Will I experience nausea?
Most patients do not experience nausea from radiation unless the abdomen is being treated, as in stomach cancer. Ask a member of your radiation team what you may expect based on your diagnosis and treatment plan.

Can I exercise during treatment?
Yes. Many studies have shown that exercise during radiation therapy can ease side effects, including fatigue and sleeping problems. We recommend that you maintain your exercise program during treatment. Some patients may need to modify the intensity of their exercise programs.

Will I be able to live my life as I usually do?
Radiation therapy is usually tolerated well, and many patients are able to go about their normal routines. We encourage you to continue your normal activities and daily life. Listen to your body; if you feel fatigued, take time to rest and relax. Surround yourself with people who provide emotional support. Support groups are available.

What do I need to know about transportation and parking?
Radiation therapy is usually given on an outpatient basis. Most patients drive themselves to and from treatments. If you are not feeling well, you may want to arrange for a family member or friend to drive you. There is ample parking available in front of Scripps Radiation Therapy Center for patients undergoing daily treatments. Wheelchairs are available in the lobby for those who need them.

Whom should I talk to about billing questions?
If you have questions about the cost of radiation therapy, our staff will assist you. We will help with your insurance authorization and other aspects regarding insurance coverage.