- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Radiation therapy
- Common questions about radiation therapy
- How do I prepare for radiation therapy?
How do I prepare for radiation therapy?
The effects of radiation therapy depend on the part of the body being treated, the radiation dose and the number of treatments you need. Your treatment team will tell you the likely effects for you. It can be hard to know how to prepare, but several general issues are worth thinking about in advance.
Explore ways to relaxRead a book or listen to music while you wait, ask a friend or family member to keep you company, or try chatting to other people waiting for treatment. To help you relax during the session, try meditation or breathing exercises, or ask the radiation therapists if you can listen to music.
Organise help at homeSome support with housework, meals and errands can ease the load. If you have young children, you may need to arrange for someone to look after them during radiation therapy sessions and possibly afterwards. Older children may need lifts to and from school and activities. Consider asking one friend or family member to coordinate offers of help. You may be able to get practical support through your local Cancer Council.
Find out about quittingIf you smoke, it is important to stop smoking before starting treatment. Smoking may make the treatment less effective and side effects worse. For information and support, talk to your doctor, call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit iCanQuit.
Discuss your concernsKeep a list of questions and add to it whenever you think of a new question. If you are feeling anxious about radiation therapy, talk to a member of the radiation therapy team, your GP, or a family member or friend.
Arrange transportPlan how you will get to radiation therapy sessions. If travelling by car, ask about parking as there will often be spots set aside for radiation therapy patients. At first, you may feel well enough to get yourself to radiation therapy sessions. You are likely to feel more tired as the treatment goes on, so it’s best to arrange for someone to drive you. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to find out if there is a transport to treatment service in your area.
Mention medical implantsLet your treatment team know if you have any medical devices in your body, such as a pacemaker, cochlear implant or another metal implant, such as a hip or knee replacement. Radiation therapy can affect these devices or be affected by them.
Ask about patient travel assistanceIf you have to travel a long way for radiation therapy, you may be eligible for financial assistance to help cover the cost of travel or accommodation. Your local Cancer Council may also provide accommodation services. For details, speak to the hospital social worker or clinic receptionist, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Consider fertilitySome types of radiation therapy can affect your fertility.If you think you may want to have children in the future, talk to your treatment team about your options before radiation therapy begins.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, and Dean, RANZCR Faculty of Radiation Oncology, QLD; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Patricia Hanley, Consumer; Prof Michael Hofman, Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Physician, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Leanne Hoy, Cancer Nurse Consultant, GenesisCare, VIC; Sharon King, Accredited Practising Dietitian, TAS; Dr Yoo Young (Dominique) Lee, Radiation Oncology Consultant, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Dr Wendy Phillips, Senior Medical Physicist, Department of Radiation Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Katrina Rech, Radiation Therapist and Quality Systems Manager, GenesisCare, SA. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.