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Chest radiation - discharge

Radiation - chest - discharge; Cancer - chest radiation; Lymphoma - chest radiation

When you have radiation treatment for cancer, your body goes through changes. Follow your health care provider's instructions on how to care for yourself at home. Use the information below as a reminder.

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What to Expect at Home

About 2 weeks after your first treatment:

For weeks to months after radiation treatment, you may notice shortness of breath. You are more likely to notice this when you are active. Contact your doctor if you develop this symptom.

Skin Care

When you have radiation treatment, color markings are drawn on your skin. DO NOT remove them. These show where to aim the radiation. If they come off, do not redraw them. Tell your doctor instead.

To take care of the treatment area:

Tell your provider if you have any breaks or openings in your skin.

Other Self-care

You will likely feel tired after a few days. If so:

You need to eat enough protein and calories to keep your weight up.

To make eating easier:

Drink at least 8 to 12 cups (2 to 3 liters) of liquid each day, not including coffee or tea, or other drinks that have caffeine in them.

Don't drink alcohol or eat spicy foods, acidic foods, or foods that are very hot or cold. These will bother your throat.

If pills are hard to swallow, try crushing them and mixing them with ice cream or other soft food. Ask your doctor or pharmacist before crushing your medicines. Some medicines do not work when crushed.

Watch out for these signs of lymphedema (swelling) in your arm.

Ask your provider about exercises you can do to keep your arm moving freely.

Dry, Sore Throat, or Cough

Try using a humidifier or vaporizer in your bedroom or main living area. DO NOT smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. DO NOT chew tobacco.

Try sucking on sugar-free candy to add saliva to your mouth.

Mix one half teaspoon or 3 grams of salt and one quarter teaspoon or 1.2 grams of baking soda in 8 ounces (240 milliliters) of warm water. Gargle with this solution several times a day. DO NOT use store-bought mouthwashes or lozenges.

For a cough that does not go away:

Follow-up Care

Your doctor may check your blood counts regularly, especially if the radiation treatment area is large.

Related Information

Mastectomy
Lung cancer - small cell
Hodgkin lymphoma
Non-small cell lung cancer
Dry mouth during cancer treatment
Eating extra calories when sick - adults
Lymphedema - self-care
Drinking water safely during cancer treatment
Safe eating during cancer treatment
When you have diarrhea
When you have nausea and vomiting
Radiation therapy - questions to ask your doctor

References

Doroshow JH. Approach to the patient with cancer. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 169.

National Cancer Institute website. Radiation therapy and you: support for people with cancer. www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/radiationttherapy.pdf. Updated October 2016. Accessed March 16, 2020.

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Review Date: 2/6/2020  

Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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