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List of what to do/get/pack to prep for Radiation Therapy

Hey all,

We would like to put a complete-as-possible list together of your suggestions for getting through Radiation treatment in our next newsletter. Can you start sharing your ideas here?

Thanks so much!

The Mods

**********HEY ALL, HERE IS THE LIST, AS OF MARCH, 2015. Please let us know if we missed things, and/or you want something added!!********************

-Exercise first thing in the morning. I've found by afternoons my stamina is waning. Maintain exercise throughout the treatment.

-Drink lots of water: Always take a jug of ice-water or water bottle with you to drink on your way home from treatment.

-Wear comfortable clothing that closes in the front, including your bra.

-If the lockers are small, bring a compact backpack style purse for your wallet, checkbook, selected cream, phone, reading material.

-Bring your own blanket, a long-sleeve wrap cardigan to wear under the gown, extra fuzzy socks just during treatment.

-Wear soft, cotton bras in 1 size larger. (Genie Bra-Walmart, Amoena) and soft, cotton t-shirts or tank tops for overnight.

-Do not apply creams, lotions, etc. 4 hours before treatment.

-Use Deodorant aluminum-free deodorant (e.g. Tom's of Maine or pure cornstarch are recommended).

-Wash area with Dove soap for sensitive skin (the white one) or an antiseptic soap from your doctor.

-Apply suggested oils and creams after treatment all over the radiated area, like:

Emu oil

Vitamin E oil

Coconut oil

Aloe (98% pure aloe, without alcohol, can be found at the grocery store) applied 3x a day, including after treatment (but not right before).

Calendula cream by NatureWorks

Eucerin and Jean's Cream (somewhat expensive) all over the radiated area.


Epionce Medical Barrier cream



-Apply suggested oils and creams after treatment all over the radiated area for nighttime:


J&J large gauze pads or cut up old soft tshirts to cover the radiated breast after I used the recommended cream.

Triamcinolone cream then Aquaphor

-Make sure to eat around 60 grams of lean protein per day.

-Stand with your back to the shower and letting the water just run down gently on the breast--to never let the water directly hit the breast.

-Keep the underarm area "open" by placing hands on hips (like a tough teacher) when standing and walking, and sitting with the affected arm over the back of a chair next to me.

-Rather than changing into hospital gown for rads, wear a large T-shirt cut straight up the centre back and sewed with a ribbon tie at the neck band back. Wear a sweater or jacket over the T that is easy to remove.

-If you are itchy after treatment talk with your oncologist a DAO supplement (HistDAO)

-Remember that there is a wide variation in facilities (e.g. locker sizes, what they provide for comfort and warmth, and creams they recommend or use).

Listen to the advice of your Radiation Oncologist and read additional tips from our website



  • Evilmidget
    Evilmidget Member Posts: 10
    edited March 2015

    I'm almost halfway through my 36 radiation treatments and the three main things I do:

    1). Exercise first thing in the morning. I've found by afternoons my stamina is waning.

    2) Always take a jug of ice-water with you to drink on your way home from treatment.

    3). I'm getting treatment on a mastectomy without reconstruction, so I take some Emu oil with me to apply after my treatment.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,652
    edited March 2015

    Thanks! Let's keep it coming ThumbsUp

  • MsPharoah
    MsPharoah Member Posts: 224
    edited March 2015

    1. wear comfortable clothing that closes in the front, including your bra. Taking things off over your head can be difficult.

    2. Buy soft bras (Genie Bra-Walmart) in 1 size larger. More comfortable and I was able to wear them while sleeping.

    3 I used J&J large gauze pads to cover the radiated breast after I used the recommended cream. It protected my clothing from stains and kept the cream on the breast. You can also cut up an old soft Tshirt for this purpose.

    4. Drink lots of water and continue to exercise during radiation as it will help with the fatigue.

  • Annette47
    Annette47 Member Posts: 108
    edited March 2015

    My rad onc recommended aloe (I used a 98% pure aloe that I found at the grocery store) applied 3x a day, including after treatment (but not right before). I never had any skin issues at all and would highly recommend it.

    I would recommend soft, cotton bras or cami’s - I did have swelling and it helped to have something soft and stretchy to wear - I’m too large to be comfortable braless, but my regular bras were uncomfortable due to the swelling.

    I was told not to use regular deodorant during treatment, but a non-aluminum one such as Tom’s of Maine was allowed. They also recommended the Dove for sensitive skin (the white one) as the only approved soap/cleanser to use.

  • chtease
    chtease Member Posts: 8
    edited March 2015

    I discovered men's ribbed tank-style tee-shirts (aka "wife-beaters") too late to save my new sheets from being ruined by melted Aquaphor. I found the tees to be just right when I didn't want to wear a bra but I was too sensitive to not have some protection and just a little bit of containment. I'll probably wear them overnight for several more months.

    My go-to skin product was Calendula cream by NatureWorks - available on Amazon. It's not greasy, really moisturizes well and kept my skin in good shape. I applied it in the morning and in the dressing room after my treatments. (I did use Aquaphor overnight, but it was too greasy to be socially acceptable during the day.)

    Soft cotton Genie bras from Walmart worked well but Amoena makes a cotton bra with hooks and eyes in the front which worked even better.

    I quit counting calories and counted protein grams instead, making sure that I concentrated on lean meats and low-fat or fat-free dairy. My goal was 60 grams of protein per day.

  • hopeful82014
    hopeful82014 Member Posts: 887
    edited March 2015

    Thanks for some really helpful tips, chtease. How is your skin doing now that you've finished? And would you mind sharing what your rt treatment was? (If not comfortable with that, I understand.)

  • tgtg
    tgtg Member Posts: 75
    edited March 2015

    1. In addition to carrying my water bottle with me each day and going straight from 9 a.m. rads to the gym on MWF, I also wore cotton bras with no seams on the cups (except when going out to parties, dinner, etc.)

    2. Also made my life easier in the morning by driving braless (even with a D cup) to rads, and putting bra on afterwards. (Was lucky to never be stopped by a cop!)

    3. My rad onc "banned" Dial, Irish Spring and Ivory and advised Dove or Camay as the only soaps to use, and advised Tom's of Maine or pure cornstarch as deodorant.

    4. She also suggested standing with back to shower and letting the water just run down gently on the breast--to never let the water assault the already traumatized breast.

    5. She also encouraged me to keep the underarm area "open" by placing my hands on my hips (like a tough teacher) when standing and walking, and sitting with the affected arm over the back of a chair next to me.

    6. In the 2 weeks between the planning CT and the start of rads, I used a safe gentle moisturizer on my boob to prepare it for what was to come, and then stopped the day before rads started and switched to Aquaphor as directed.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,652
    edited March 2015

    This is great and helpful! Yeah! Keep it coming (-:

  • chtease
    chtease Member Posts: 8
    edited March 2015

    Hopeful, my skin is really good almost 2 weeks after finishing. I didn't blister at all but my "underboob" was pretty sore the last 2 weeks and the week after finishing. My boost area is very discolored but the raw-looking area has pretty much healed already. I never peeled either.

    Like tgtg, I'm still showering backwards with warm water. (I'm really looking forward to my first hot shower facing the spray. I might be brave enough to try that in about a month. Anticipation can be fun, right?) On days I don't have to wash my hair, I take a shallow bubble bath and splash flowing water from the faucet onto my boob, lather with Dove and then wet a wash cloth directly from the tap to wring out over my boob or blot gently to rinse.

    I'm going to continue to use my calendula products (I also have an ointment and a gel) until the containers are empty. I think that'll be about 2 more weeks, so it will be a full month after finishing rads.

    Hopeful - I had 25 full-breast external treatments in the prone position and 8 boosts to the scar and tumor bed.

  • chtease
    chtease Member Posts: 8
    edited March 2015

    One other note: The lockers at radiation oncology here are really small, so I got a compact backpack style purse and just carried my wallet, checkbook, Calendula cream and phone with me. The first day, I had the computer tote I normally use as a purse and had to bring it with me into the treatment room. Oops.

  • hopeful82014
    hopeful82014 Member Posts: 887
    edited March 2015

    Thanks so much for the details, chtease, including a warning about the locker size. Who would have anticipated that? It's certainly something I'll check on.

    You're lucky that you were able to do rad. in the prone position; I understand that can make quite a difference. You had about as many as I'm slated for, including the boost and I hope I do as well.

    I'm glad to hear that you;re doing well and hope that only continues to improve. Thanks again!

  • brooksidevt
    brooksidevt Member Posts: 1,432
    edited March 2015

    Remember that you can see a nurse, an RO and/or the head tech any time you have concerns.

    While rads are scheduled only on weekdays, an RO is on call 24/7. Do not hesitate to call or ask to be seen.

    A few follow-up visits will be scheduled, but the nurses and RO will continue to be available months or years after your treatment, should issues arise.

  • Sjacobs146
    Sjacobs146 Member Posts: 155
    edited March 2015

    I used Eucerin and Jean's Cream (somewhat expensive) all over the radiated area. I was advised no creams, lotions, etc. 4 hours before treatment. Post treatment, I applied the creams when I got dressed again. When the skin under my arm got red and dry, I started applying Aquafor and put Vaseline gauze over it and dry gauze over the baseline to protect my clothes. I also wore cotton tank tops to protect my clothes. If you must use deodorant, be careful to use non-metallic as opposed to aluminum free. I inadvertently used a deodorant that had zinc oxide in it instead of aluminum. The metals can scatter the radiation. My doc also gave me antiseptic soap Chlorhexidine Gluconate 2%, which I diluted 1 part soap to 3 parts water and washed the area 2-3 times a day.

    Best advice I can give is to listen to your MO and do what they say. If you are doing something they don't know about, it might be the wrong thing.

  • suegr8
    suegr8 Member Posts: 138
    edited March 2015

    I had 16 treatments.  Rather than changing into hospital gown for rads, I used a large T-shirt that I cut straight up the centre back and sewed a ribbon tie at the neck band back.   Then I wore a sweater or jacket over the T that was easy to remove.    Didn't have to remove anything below waist for therapy.  Some days I didn't even go into the change room since I arrived at hospital in this outfit. 



  • agness
    agness Member Posts: 406
    edited June 2015

    I found the room I was receiving treatment in to be freezing; it was the late Fall. I ended up wearing tights under my pants, bringing my own wool blanket with me, brought a long-sleeve wrap cardigan to wear under my gown, wore extra fuzzy socks just during treatment, and had them put warmed blankets over my arms -- and then I was comfortable.


    I tried a bunch of different recommended lotions, ointments and creams during treatment. Here's what seemed to work best:


    Calendula lotion




    For dry and wet desquamation the silicon dressings by Mepilex worked best. They cling without adhering and the foam versions can absorb exuded fluids.

    For wet desquamation I found Silvadene cream covered with a hydrogel dressing and held in place with a larger piece of Mepilex over the damaged area was amazing. The hydrogel dressing is a wet dressing and it lets the wound heal without further trauma. You can keep the hydrogel pad in place for a couple days before changing it (I looked it up).

    Johnson & Johnson used to sell hydrogel pads as part of their consumer bandaging line and I still had some in my first aid kit. Your treatment facility should be able to order some in for use with patients. My facility was reluctant for some BS administrative reason. You don't need much and you can order it online but it usually comes in packs of 10 larger sheets.


    At the end of treatment I started feeling itchy all over and felt like I had too much histamine in my body. The body produces histamine as part of the inflamnation used to heal injuries in the body. I had some modicum of relief when I took liquid Claritin (Children's) but I still felt icky like when I have had bad allergies - nauseous even. After reading up about histamine intolerance I realized that rads had overwelmed my body's ability to break down histamine -- there was too much inflammation. Anti-histamines only block histamine receptors but histamines still circulate. DAO is the enzyme your body produces to break down histamine, but I speculated that my body couldn't keep up. My naturopathic oncologist heard me out and gave me a DAO supplement (HistDAO) and within a couple of days I felt better

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,652
    edited March 2015

    Thanks everyone so far for sharing, this is all very very helpful,

    Keep them coming!

    The mods

  • annika12
    annika12 Member Posts: 92
    edited March 2015

    I drank a lot of water, wore lose comfortable clothing and nothing else! ! My doctor told me do nothing unless you need. I turned slightly pink in the end the only spot that broke the skin was when I refused another tattoo and they put a bandaid type marker on me when I took it off my skin did too !!!

  • BookWoman
    BookWoman Member Posts: 33
    edited March 2015

    As you are reading (and writing) remember that there is a wide variation in facilities. I have had radiation 3 times (2 breast and one pelvic) at two different facilities. One had the fairly small lockers as mentioned above, but the other had very spacious lockers. One gave patients a fleece 'poncho' to wear, the other had very nice short gowns--not the typical hospital gowns. One had a very small room for waiting after changing, the other had a large room with TV, lots of magazines, water, etc. Luckily at the one with the small waiting room I hardly ever had to wait, usually being taken directly from the changing room to the treatment room. One of the facilities provided a special cream that the RO wanted me to use, the other had sample creams in a basket that I could take if I wanted. You might not want to go out and spend a lot of money on creams, shirts, etc. until you know what your facility does.

  • Jeeper4
    Jeeper4 Member Posts: 13
    edited April 2015

    I just finished my radiation yesterday/I had 21 treatments. My facility has some construction going on and there are only 2 small changing areas and the lockers are very small. So I just brought a tote bag that also doubled as my purse and put my clothing in there once I changed into the gown. I could bring the tote bag into the treatment room with me. (I saw my RO every Thursday so this made it easy to have all my clothes with me and just wore my gown from the rad room over to the patient room.) I rarely wore a bra during treatment and instead wore a tank underneath a loose fitting shirt. Sometimes it was quite cool in the waiting area and treatment room but they have heated blankets as well as small quilts made by a local church quilting group!

    I used Dove soap during treatment. The doc prescribed Triamcinolone cream to be used after radiation and then again at night. I was able to get 2 tubes of the cream so I kept one in the tote bag and one on my nightstand so I wouldn't forget to use it. The doc also said to use Aquaphor or Calendula after the Triamcinolone at night.

    I always packed reading material but found there was little time for it. They were always on schedule.

    I'm fair skinned but my skin held up well during treatments. During the 3rd week I was pink, especially the nipple area, and was a little tender. During the last week of treatment I noticed my skin was very "freckled" in some spots and especially in the nipple area. I had some "zinger" type pains and a little itching but no blistering or skin peeling. I am to continue with the creams for 2 weeks post treatment and was strongly encouraged to stay out of sun and use sunscreen. There is a follow-up appt. in 4 months.

    I was able to do my radiation face down until the boost. For others doing the same thing, wear the gown opening in the back for the boost and you will have better coverage. I was pretty tired throughout treatment, but we had a variety of illnesses running through our household at the time. I did a lot of sleeping and played my cancer card--"No, I'm not cooking tonight; Someone else can take the trash out" etc...

    I adored my radiation team and will miss not seeing them today. I brought them a special treat every Friday to countdown my weeks. Their compassion, professionalism, and kindness meant a lot to me during those 21 days.

  • florida2015
    florida2015 Member Posts: 46
    edited April 2015

    Your stats are same as mine. Did u have any side effects from drug? Do u have peace of mind knowing rads r done. I start process next week

  • slcarson
    slcarson Member Posts: 1
    edited May 2015

    I'm halfway through. I go first thing in the am. I use R1 immediately after RAD and then R2 60mg every 3-4 hours. No one told me to apply to my back and I'm badly burnt. So now applyingR2 to back as well as a mix of a queues cream with Betnovate( cortisone). I use Taurine in my water 4 x a day. Radiation depletes the body of Taurine, and this is what results I in fatigue. I work full time and dont suffer from fatigue at al

  • Aeon
    Aeon Member Posts: 1
    edited May 2015

    Radiaplex all day every day. Aquaphor for if you get super sensitive in areas.

    Great big zip up hoodies, cheap tank tops, and yoga pants.That was my uniform through the whole thing

    I never got very fatigued. Some days, but it was hard to tell if it was the treatment or if I was just tired.

  • lyzzysmom
    lyzzysmom Member Posts: 285
    edited May 2015

    I used only Elta Lite and Elta cream that was given to me by the RO and my skin coped ok.

    I got a soft furry seat belt cover from Amazon that helped with soreness when driving


  • ShetlandPony
    ShetlandPony Member Posts: 3,063
    edited May 2015

    To avoid the (possibly irritating) extra ingredients found even in "100% aloe vera" products, get a potted aloe vera plant and make your own gel. Wash a leaf, slice off flat side, scoop out the pulp with a spoon, blend (in a blender) with a little water. You can find a how-to video on YouTube. Carry it in a little bottle so you can put it on right after treatment. It feels soothing.

    To be comfortable at home, you can go braless in a soft cotton t-shirt, and put a soft cotton bandanna under the radiated breast so it won't stick to the skin underneath.

    You might be able to negotiate about some of the tattoos and have the techs use some clear tape over permanent marker, if you promise not to wash it off.

    Get enough sleep so your skin can heal during the night.

    Stay out of the sun.

    Get a seat belt clip at an auto parts store, to hold the shoulder belt off your chest.

    NATSGSG Member Posts: 64
    edited July 2015

    Hello fellow members:

    I've just completed my chemo this past Tuesday. In 5.5 week's time, I shall be going for radiation therapy. I would appreciate it if you can share the following info in this format. I shall list mine of what I know thus far. Thank you all

    1) Treatment length, in weeks?  3 weeks (daily for 15 days, excluding weekends). RO said 1st two weeks will focus on the whole right breast, and the last week is a booster to the location where my tumor was originally,

    2) Treatment duration, in mins?  10-15 mins daily.

    3) Treatment dose?  40 Gray each time, I think. Need to write and clarify with my RO again.

    4) Treatment position?  My RO said they will do a trial run after the markers are in place, but that I shall most likely be in the prone position because this causes the least damage to my lungs and other body parts.

    5) Clips within breasts -I've only just discovered two days ago that there were six 3 mm clips inside my right breast where I had lumpectomy and reconstructive surgery. Those clips are supposed to help the radiologist find the exact location to radiate. It seems they cannot be taken out. Is there anyone who has had it taken out after radiation completion? If so, how and what method was used please?

    6) How do you feel immediately after radiation?

    7) What do you do subsequently and for the rest of the day?

    8) What side effects did you experience? How long did it lasts?

    9) Anything else you would like to share?

  • Lunalin
    Lunalin Member Posts: 18
    edited July 2015

    I bought a new car, for the daily trek. I got a cute haircut. I shopped in the boys dept. for big, loose tops. I got Sirius radio in my car. I ditched my bra and prosthesis. I brought treats for the staff. I prayed. I got lots of lotions. I celebrated on my last day!

  • pwilmarth
    pwilmarth Member Posts: 138
    edited July 2015


    I am about where you are. I had the CT scan for positioning last week and placement of the tattoos. I will be in the prone position.

    Didn't have a lumpectomy, so no clips.

    It's undecided yet whether I will get 10 treatments or 25. The radiation oncologist will discuss with his peers and give me their best opinion. I don't have strong feelings either way.

    Each treatment will be 15 minutes.

    My next appointment is Thursday, it's a trial run and an education session with the nurse. They will be going over many of the issues that these fine ladies have discussed.

  • bythemarina
    bythemarina Member Posts: 2
    edited July 2015

    I will start with radiation treatment within next 2 weeks, or as soon as medical aid authorizes the treatment.

    5 weeks, every day and if I understood correctly, another week radiation targeting the area where the lump was removed. All-in-all, 30 treatments.

    Thanks for all the advice!

  • hopeful82014
    hopeful82014 Member Posts: 887
    edited July 2015

    Hello, Bythemarina - My one piece of advice right now would be to start moisturizing the entire area very generously now, rather than waiting until you start radiation. Use something with minimal chemicals, if possible. I think it does make a difference in how well your skin handles it.

    You may find it hard to find certain lotions or, for example, Aloe Vera without alcohol so you may want to start shopping for those now as well.

    There is an on-going thread for Summer 2015 Radiation where you'll find lots of encouragement, answers, questions and lovely women. I hope you'll join us.

    Radiation is daunting in the beginning, and I reached a point about 1/2 way through where it seemed as though it would never end. That passes, however, and eventually you will be finishing and thinking that it went by faster than you'd have expected. Good luck (and greetings to beautiful Cape Town - such a lovely city!).

  • pwilmarth
    pwilmarth Member Posts: 138
    edited July 2015


    I've now completed 5 treatments.

    I haven't experienced any side effects yet.

    Don't feel any different immediately after a treatment and I haven't made any changes to my usual routine.

    I understand from my team at the center that I shouldn't expect anything noticeable for another 2 week

    The recommendations from the nurse was the same as you have seen here:

    Use Aquaphor, Calendula, Lubriderm, or Aloe Vera. Don't apply 3 hours before treatment.

    Use Dove moisturizing soap. Caress, Tona or Neutogena may also be used.

    Avoid deodorants with aluminum 3 hours before treatment. Don't use deodorants if the underarm is treated.

    Stay out of the sun. Wear sunscreen and keep the area covered when out in the sun.

    Avoid putting anything hot or cold on the skin.

    Wear loose fitting clothing. Wear soft cotton next to the treatment area. (Some cheap cotton men's tank tops work well for me).

    Wash clothes in gentle detergent (the kind for babies). Don't use starch on clothes